Friday, January 25, 2013

Training Specificity, Driving to an Island

by Kris Pitcher

When you're going somewhere it makes sense to take the direct route. For instance, you can't drive your car to an the middle of the ocean. I'm not talking about the kind of island connected to a landmass by a bridge. I mean the one WAY out there.

Sure, you could put your car on a freighter, but your crossing would take several weeks. What most people would recommend is you get on a plane and fly there. You would take that seriously, because you know your car won't make it. It's not designed for the voyage.

Yet, when you have a very specific goal and someone really smart recommends the direct route people sometimes want to meander all over the place "driving their car to an island".

No, no - I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about less rational people. People who want to dispute the science. And cardio intensity is my favorite example of this within the contest prep family.

Science tells us at what intensity we most efficiently burn fat for fuel. Period. Not my science. The field of science. It tells us at what intensity we shift from one energy system to another, becoming less efficient at burning fat and so on.

But me and about three other people (and all my husband's clients because he teaches them why) continue to do steady state cardio at the low end of the HR zone. My point is, there are still a lot of people driving, while some are flying to the island.

My point is, when we are training for a specific goal, there are going to be specific training protocols we'll need to do in order to reach that goal. That's called training specificity. If you want to improve your tri time, you swim/bike/ don't do yoga.

When you tell your coach you want to become a better runner they put you on a running protocol. Isn't it silly for you to then complain and tell your coach you'd rather do your training in the pool because your friends are swimming? Silly.

You need to run to become a better runner. Just like there are certain things you need to do to be a successful physique athlete. Not the least of which has to do with your diet. Specificity. We're trying to accomplish something in a direct route.

At a certain point in our training as we become serious, as our event comes closer and as we have more limited resources in terms of energy to expend it's even more important to be specific. This means giving up some of the extra curricular recreational things. Meandering things.

It may mean we teach fewer fitness classes for a short time. Maybe it means we give up hot yoga for the final six weeks of our prep. It might mean we can't enjoy spring skiing. We have to assess and prioritize what gets us to that stage. And we have to remember, we can't drive our car to an island...

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