Hopefully, we’re all familiar with the concept of specificity – your training should look increasingly like your race the closer the race gets. This should be common sense – if you are training for a marathon you’re not running too many 200m sprints, and if you’re training for a 5k you’re not doing 15mi tempo runs.
However, how far do you take this? I see many athletes that do the right type of training, but not at the right time or on the right terrain or in the right conditions. Let’s explore how you can maximize your performance by taking specificity to its logical conclusion.
Timing is tricky, because our bodies have rhythms, and the majority of your quality training sessions should take place when you’re at your best. For example, if you’re a night person, that 6am Master’s session is going to be of marginal benefit. You’d see better results from training when you’re naturally at your best.
Further complicating this issue is our busy lives; sometimes you just have to fit training in when you can. However, at least 15% of your quality sessions should be done at the time of day you’ll be racing. If you always swim at 7pm, you can’t expect to race well when your wave hits the water at 8am. Some running and cycling events are held in the evening, and if you always train in the morning, a twilight race is something you have to prepare for. The body is amazing at adapting, so expose it to what you’ll be asking of it come race day.
We all know that Kona, IM TX and IM Kentucky are going to be hot, and that it’s going to be windy at Galveston and New Orleans 70.3. Professional cyclists from Canada and the northern US train in a sauna to get ready for early season races in hotspots like Indonesia and Qatar. Are you training in the conditions you’ll face? Don’t dodge the wind or the heat in training if you’ll be racing in it.
Have you looked at the course profile for this season’s A-race? Are you training on similar terrain? Sure, riding in a headwind can approximate the power requirements of a long climb, but it won’t feel the same; you’ll be sitting on the bike differently and using your muscles differently. If nothing else, elevate your bike trainer or the treadmill once a week, and take a weekend to go somewhere with hills.
With the wind, your equipment comes into play as well. If you’re spending hours on the CompuTrainer before Galveston, of course your deep-dish races wheels are going to feel squirrelly – get out and ride them in the wind!
If you’re going to spend the money to race, and take the time to prepare, at least take the time to prepare properly – your results will benefit and you’ll have a better time, too.
Steen Rose is the owner and Head Coach of Athletes On Track and an Elite Coach for Training Bible Coaching. He has been competing in cycling and multisport events for 16 years with 13 state titles and 3 national medals to his name. He has been coaching since 2003 and works with all ages and abilities of athletes locally, nationally, and abroad. He can be reached at email@example.com