Why Routine is Good and Monotony is Bad

As the 2016 winds down, many endurance athletes take a look back to analyze their performance for the year. They study what they did right and what they did wrong. One aspect that can be hard to see while your in the midst of it, is your routine. How varied is it? Did it become monotonous? Did you peak when you wanted to or just fizzle out (both mentally and physically)? Not recognizing that is a death trap that many endurance athletes fall into and that’s why right now is the perfect time to embrace the mantra: Routine is good. Monotony is bad.

Why Routine is Good and Monotony is Bad
How often to you change up your long run route?

Why Routine is Good

Every athlete knows that if you aren’t held responsible, whether it be to your coach, your training partners, or anyone else, it’s hard to get out the door every day. That alarm goes off at 5:30am and you can’t help but hit snooze a few times. So how can you help yourself follow through on those days where training is the last thing you want to do? Establish a routine. 

  • Set a time to do your workout for each day. It doesn’t have to be the same time every day, but if you know that every Tuesday you’ll run at 7am, then that simply becomes part of your routine.
  • Once you create your routine, make a plan to stick with it. Whether it’s sticky notes around the house, a daily calendar, or writing it on your forehead with a sharpie  you need to have a plan in place to help build the habits. Recruiting friends, family, and training partners will help you stick with those habits.
  • Creating a habit isn’t something that happens overnight. A 2009 habit formation study found that the average time for a new habit to form (and become automatic) is approximately 66 day. Sometimes it can form sooner, sometimes it takes longer, but the big take away is that habits don’t form instantly. Have a plan and make a conscious effort to stick to it and eventually it will become automatic.
  • Apps can make it easier – Using the calendar app on your phone is a great way to set up your routine. Block out a time each week for your workout and have it repeat indefinitely. You can also set alarms to remind you when to go to bed. That’s a great way to be consistent with your sleep.

Creating a routine will make it easier to be consistent.


Why Monotony is Bad

When you stress your body (training), it reacts by adapting, growing, and improving (you get fitter and faster). This is how training works. The trick is, that if you continue to expose the body to the exact same stresses, it will eventually adapt to the point where it no longer needs to improve to handle that particular stress. That is what’s called, hitting a plateau.

  • Don’t repeat the exact same workouts in the exact same way on a regular basis. You may see improvements for a little while, but that trend won’t last. NOTE:  A bench mark workout (a workout to test your fitness level) does not fall into this category, but that 30 minute run from your front door, at exactly the same pace, every Wednesday, isn’t doing you any good. 
  • If you have a limited number of routes or trails to workout on, change directions, change pace, change whatever you can to mix it up. Variation is key.

Hitting a plateau mentally can be just as bad as hitting one physically. If your head can’t keep pushing, then your body certainly won’t either. You get burned out mentally by doing the exact same workouts, the same routes, and the same exercises week after week. Keeping things fresh mentally is just as important as it’s physical counterpart. Luckily, being an off-road athlete, you are comfortable with things changing constantly.

  • Tell your coach to mix it up a little if you’re getting bored. Try something new. You can also scour the web for new and different workouts. Check out our Training Section for some new ideas.
  • Try working out with different groups, friends, or people as often as possible.
  • Throw in a training camp as a way to break your monotonous routine.

Monotony will lead to a plateau and eventually burn out.



The Key Take-Away

Setting a routine will help you reach your goals by giving you structure and consistency, but routine does not mean the same thing over and over and over again – that’s monotony. Monotony causes mental burn out and leads to a plateau in your physical and mental abilities.


Jimmy Archer

Founder and Editor at Jimmy has been a professional athlete for over 18 years as a runner, cyclist, mountain biker, cross country skier, and primarily, triathlete. Jimmy has a degree in exercise science from the University of Colorado and is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling certified coach. Jimmy became a freelance writer in 2000 while competing and covering the ITU Winter Triathlon World Championship. Since that time Jimmy has been head editor at two magazines, been published in numerous publications within the endurance sport, recreation, and travel segments. Currently Jimmy is competing professionally in off-road multisport. In his spare time Jimmy passionately follows Formula 1, Moto GP, and is an avid cook.

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