The turtle and the hare: consistency matters

Connor and Dr. Mark O'Shaughnessy

I was running with my college-age youngest son this weekend and the topic of "training," specifically running training, came up.


A little background is in order. As many may know, I am an avid runner with the marathon distance (26.2 miles) being my event of choice. In order to be able to complete and compete in such events, one must put in countless miles and training consistency is a must. My son, currently starting his junior year in college, was a very talented middle distance runner in high school but has taken the last several years "off," tired of all the competition. As he returns to running at a more leisurely pace, both literally and figuratively, it has been startling and somewhat disappointing to him how much conditioning he has lost in the last two years.


One of the most unfair facts of basic physiology is that we "lose it" much faster than we "gain it" when we are speaking of conditioning. It takes months to years to become conditioned and literally days to begin to become unconditioned.


Now, my son is only 20 years of age, and with just a minimum amount of work he can return to his previous competitive standards. But add a decade or two (or four) to his age and the process of getting in shape takes on a completely different dynamic. We must begin slowly in whatever activity we choose so that we do not become injured using muscles and joints we have not stressed in decades. As I have stated in previous blogs, it does not matter what activity we choose, we need to choose those activities that we enjoy that will motivate us to continue. If we begin or increase the intensity or duration of the activity too fast we become injured and basically find ourselves "taking one step forward and two steps back."


Hence the title of this piece, consistency is the key to our ultimate success in getting in shape and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Small changes over time will make a huge difference in our lives and in our health. Once you have chosen your activity of interest and set some realistic goals for yourself, the most important thing you can do to ensure your ultimate success is to practice the activity consistently over time. Even on those days when your motivation is waning (see previous blog) getting out and "slogging" through a workout or activity will pay huge benefits both physically from a conditioning standpoint and mentally as you begin to find that the activity quite simply makes you FEEL better.


Keep up the great work and feel free to let me know how you are doing or if you have suggestions for others to keep motivated. We all learn from each other’s successes and failures, so feel free to comment or add to the dialog.

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