As a coach, I am constantly trying to find solutions for improving performance in my athletes. After reviewing the data from training and racing results from a myriad of athletes; has lead me to some simple truths on helping athletes meet and exceed their goals. One of these truths is that to be successful, athletes must train with specificity!!!!!!
I see lots of runners, cyclists, and multisport athletes that are just winging it when in fact they believe they are training. Each and every training session must have a purpose and must be beneficial in three areas.
- Does it support my goals and objectives for the race or event season?
- Does it support my goals and objectives for my next phase of training, race or event?
- Does it support my recovery so I may make adaptations to perform in peak condition when it’s time to?
The other area I see mistakes being made is an athlete not understanding the demands of their chosen endurance discipline. Examples are numerous! Such as spending to much time in the lower training zones at the wrong time of the year or doing to much work leading up to and after a priority race or event. Competing to often or training at too high of intensity or not high enough of intensity is also a common mistake I see.
The most impressive aspect of endurance athletes and the endurance athlete’s curse is their desire to work and work really hard. I get it we/you are a type A, go get em’, search and destroy and train to you fall over kinda’ athlete.
So where does specificity come in?
Now that we know that each and every time we step up to train we need to be doing it with a purpose in mind we need to understand the training factors that give purpose to our training. If you were a runner or a cyclist would you go to the weight room and start knocking out bench press after bench press? I hope not but sure as I am writing this there is someone doing this very thing.
This article is too short to write everything there is to cover training factors and their periodization. You can find several articles on this subject on this very website that cover this. I have listed links to all of them at the end of this article.
Specificity is defined as (thefreedictionary.com)
- Explicitly set forth;definite
- Clear or detailed in communicating
- Limited,distinctive, or unique
- Intended for,applying to, or acting on a particular thing
- Something particularly fitted to a use or purpose
- A remedy intended for a particular ailment or disorder
Specificity defined for athletes
When an athlete applies structure to training factors that support their athletic discipline, builds upon their strengths and or remediates their weakness then the athlete is training with purpose and applying specificity!
Specificity for endurance disciplines
Whether you are a grand-fondo rider, 5K racer, marathoner, time trialist or road racer you have specifics that are dictated by the races and events you participate in. To recognize them you must ask a few things about the events.
- How long is the event?
- What is the temperature of the event?
- What is the elevation(s) of the event?
- What are my goals for the event?
- What aspect of the event will I do well at?
- What aspect of the event am I likely to do poorly at?
- What scares me, makes me anxious or excited about the event?
When training the biggest concern is how much time do you have to train? So an easy rule that applies to most beginners is that your longest day of training shouldn’t be 20-40% longer than your longest event!
Climate plays a huge role in athletic performance so why would you primarily train at cool temps before a major race that will be very hot!
If the event you are competing in is being hosted at higher elevations or the event has multiple elevation changes you better be training with some frequency at those elevations. Not having hills in your neighborhood is not an excuse. Utilizing training factors such a force; muscle endurance and power will help you compensate for the lack of terrain where you train.
Very few beginner athletes’ that show up to a race and say I am going to wing it will win or do well. Don’t be that athlete! Put a plan together, even a simple strategy will help you learn more about yourself as an athlete than winging it.
When you look at the course or your competition are you excited because there is some aspect that makes you says, “I have got this?” Then make sure that you include this as strength in your training because if you don’t it could become a weakness if you ignore it.
If there is any area of the course that you dread or you’re pretty sure will be a deciding factor in your performance you better not ignore it in your training plan. If you do ignore it you effectively have planned for failure and disappointment.
While the concept of training with specificity seems like a very common sense approach it’s easily overlooked and misunderstood by beginners and elite athletes alike.
If you are having a hard time understanding how to apply specificity to your training then contact me and let me show you how it can make this your best season ever!
Until Next Time,
Train Smarter Not Harder,