Getting Less Specific to get More Specific

Warning - rant format post today. Quick one, but important. Training has gotten really advanced in the past few years, or decades. Mostly it’s really awesome, but sometimes I think it keeps us from getting the hard work done, or even the effective work. With the continued development of training metrics, we have so many ways we can “measure” a ride or effort. What I see happening often is that this then leads to a push to more specifically constructed workouts. A lot of athletes and coaches end up doing a majority of workouts where every effort is to a specific duration, a specific power, specific reps, etc. We’ve gotten very good at quantifying the demands of races, and then using that data to churn out workouts that we believe meet these demands.

The fundamental flaw - the one thing that is intrinsically specific to races (unless a TT) - is that you can not with 100% certainty predict how the race will play out. How long the field will ride hard for, what riding hard will mean in terms of power, etc. Of course - you can make really good educated guesses, and then work off those to be really well prepared - thus the value in these specific “nuts and bolts” workouts. Don’t get me wrong, I am very much a proponent of specific, measured training. However, I also think in a lot of cases athletes and coaches are doing exclusively very measured training - leaving not much room for efforts where to deal, for example, with the mental strain of not knowing how long the “effort” is going to last as you’re getting rag-dolled on the wheel.

So thus the tag line of “get less specific to get more specific” - group rides, training races, open hard efforts on trail or a segment of road, chasing STRAVA. I see huge value in all of this, in a lot of ways that kind of “non-specific” training stimulus that isn’t planned out by duration and clamped power zones, is actually the most specific to racing. Personally I’ve really started to work more efforts like this into my athletes’ training, especially in the month leading up to racing, and especially if they haven’t been racing a lot.

In MTB racing this is super critical I feel. If there is a push to do super structured intervals, athletes inevitably end up doing more efforts on road where they can meet the plan for the workout. That then means not really being on trail, and not dealing with the demands of the trail. This is no where near revolutionary, but I’ve really come around to the idea that in leading up to a MTB race we should be much less structured and just spend time going hard on trail - so that athletes develop that internal “speed monitor” of the idea that speed across the trail is the only output that matters. Power output on the computer doesn’t matter. And it’s important we get the athlete to the place of thinking less about their watts, and just to intrinsically be oscillating their power across the trail to maximize speed and momentum. This is something that is developed much better doing loose structure efforts on trail than by doing a bunch of nuts and bolts intervals.

Like most of my rants it ended up longer than shorter - but I think this is an interesting point, finding the balance of using our advanced metrics, but also finding the time to ignore them and focus on what I think of as “old school fury” training. Thanks for reading!