The twenty-four/seven job
It’s a joke that I am always on, like the refrigerator. But it’s true. It’s what it takes.
Consistency might be the most crucial, but under-appreciated element pertaining to success in anything. Think of the basketball playoffs, football matches, tennis finals—consistency is what wins. The ability to be consistent is what defines an athlete as a champion or just another athlete. We love a sure thing even more than we enjoy the drama of sport. There is something special about just knowing that the player, athlete or team has got it, no matter what, just like they have in the past, time and time again.
At University, my three fellow classmates and I were the first class ever in the history of all NCAA sports to graduate undefeated. We as a team won everything, every year, for four years in a row. I still smile when I think about it. I learnt a few simple lessons about consistency and how it pertains to achieving your sporting goals, and have been exploring this idea further since then in terms of the greater context of life enhancement.
The greatest athletes that I know are all consistently great in practice. They approach training with the same intensity they do when under the bright lights, when it is do or die. For them, there is no difference between the effort given in practice and the approach to a race. A race, like a game, is a multitude of details strung together. And what is training but an opportunity to consistently practice those details with the intention of creating perfect subconscious habits? A few times a week in my training, the entire purpose of the workout is to repeatedly simulate races, with the intention of consistently nailing detail, after detail while maintaining intensity as fatigue inevitably sets in, ideally achieving fast times in the first two efforts and then maintaining that standard throughout without dropping off.
I was once told that you don’t have to be amazing everyday, just consistently solid. I can, without a doubt, attest to that from my own personal experience.
The level of excellence in sports is continually improving. It’s exciting that the champions today are arguably the greatest that we have ever seen. Times and performances that would have been great years ago are now mediocre at best. I believe that a large part of this has to do with athletes adopting lifestyles that are consistent with what they are striving to achieve in sport.
Nowadays, a more holistic approach to sporting success is undoubtedly a necessity in order to keep up with the ultimate rat race. No longer is it about simply racing and training, but equal attention and effort must be paid to recovery, nutrition, health, flexibility and mobility as well as the mental approach. Being a top professional athlete now becomes a 24/7 job.
Since the level of competition is now so high, elite athletes can’t afford to fully let things go when taking time off from training and competing. They must maintain their level of fitness and skill set which is far easier to do than attempting to regain it.
It’s not that whole birthday cake that you eat once a year that really matters in the long run, but instead the little things you do day in and day out that make you or break you. The same philosophy of consistency in training needs to be applied to recovery, perhaps in the form of getting to bed earlier or regular ice baths and massages.
Nutrition is another area where consistency is key, it’s the food that you eat or avoid on a daily basis that makes the difference, not that one off time you gorged on junk food. The same applies to flexibility and mobility; small daily gains are the key. It comes down to establishing small regular habits of success that incrementally strengthen willpower. I know personally it is hard to imagine when you are in the moment, but trust me it’s worth making the regular tiny efforts instead of looking back, having missed out by hundredths of a second, wondering what little thing could have made the difference.
Similar to the case of elite athletes in sports, the consistent things in your life are, I believe, what enhance or detract from it. It’s not that once a year vacation that affects your overall happiness, but rather the simple daily pleasure or pain that we experience. It is because these often overlooked simple, regular aspects of our lives are what really matters, that I tend to prioritise my resources to maximise them. For example, health enhances or detracts from the quality of life the most. Because of this, time and money should be prioritised to allow for maximum health.
Think about the food that you eat every day. If you can make sure it’s healthy food that you enjoy, this will enhance your life. If you are going to drink coffee every morning, make sure it’s quality coffee. If you are going to use soap everyday, make sure it’s good soap. We sleep everyday, make sure your bed is comfortable. If traffic is a daily stressor—like it is for me—leave a little earlier or work around it.
It’s not a difficult idea to grasp. Forget what all that clever marketing is telling you, these little daily things enhance your life not the brand names, designer jeans, fancy watch, or expensive handbag.