Being primarily from a running background and now training as a Triathlete, there have been a lot of new obstacles to deal with when approaching training sessions. Running largely is an autonomous action for me, leaving me ample mental attention to focus on the performance goals (technique, skill, race replication) of my sessions. The difficulty with triathlon training is that the majority of my attention (still as a relative novice in two disciplines) is on outcome goals like my times and relative position to other training partners. This means that a lot of the time during sessions I forget to focus on technique and skill and the important things that will make a difference. So how specific should I be in the limited time that most of us have available? Is it worth using the gym to do some resistance activities to aid the strength of my upper body for swimming or should I get in the pool and do a swim? Should I spend time doing cycling drills or maximise my time continuously riding?
Specificity is making activities relevant to muscle movements/ groups and replication of competition situations. This is key to any training program and the advice and coaching support I receive from Energylink has now got me more focused on specificity in my sessions. The training is structured in a manner to allow me to improve individual discipline skills (for example cycling strength and pedal stroke). This allows me to focus on performance goals rather than the outcome of the session. A good example would be a cycle set that I completed this weekend at McCarrs Creek Road. The goal was to work on hill intervals in the aero position with my key focus being specific RPM and smooth pedal action engaging all parts of the pedal stroke. Although a very miserable day for the ride I felt very pleased at the end having achieved the desired technique and RPM. I feel like my strength and technique while riding these hills is activating the specific muscles I will use in a competition will prepare me well for racing. I loved this session by the way and look forward to doing it again!
Whether you are a novice or experienced performer the lesson here is to get into good habits early on and be prepared to take advice of those who have knowledge to offer. Goals are important but a structured program focussing on how to best achieve those goals is essential, and it is sometimes easier to get others to formulate these from an outside perspective rather than being designed by you. I have been lucky enough in my career to have been surrounded by good running coaches while in the UK and at University in America, now I feel I have that in Australia too.
Is specificity important? It is essential and a great way to boost your confidence in your performance.