In Part I we introduced you to the principle that performance fitness is in the muscles, not in the cardiovascular system.
Now we would like to introduce you to Return on Investment (ROI) and the Principle of Specificity, Endurance Nation's "do-not-pass-go" concepts for the age-group athlete living and working in the real world.
Return on Investment (ROI)
Return on Investment is the rate of return, on race day, for every training minute spent.
For most of you, your reality is as an age-grouper living in an age-grouper world. It's a busy place! Your weekly time-pie is cut into many slices between family, work and a personal life outside of training. Training is just one of those slices and, we feel, relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
As age-group athletes you owe it to all of the very important pie slices in your life to consider the rate of return on race day for each training minute spent. Dads, when you're walking your daughter down the aisle on her wedding day, are you going to regret not spending more time in the gym trying to improve your half-Ironman bike split? Moms? We hope not!
As coaches completely focused on the R.O.I. of each training session and totally dialed into helping you achieve the maximum results with a minimum of time invested, we have concluded that sport-specific activities are the answer and the non-sport-specific stuff gets tossed first.
The Principle of Specificity
The Principle of Specificity states that the benefits that you get from a particular type of training are very specific to the type of activity that you performed to get those benefits. In other words, if you want to get good at a thing, do that thing.
Certain movement patterns activate specific muscles. For example, cycling activates the muscles of the quadriceps and the soleus. Most importantly, while cycling, these muscles and many others all work in concert together (firing patterns, joint angles, rate of firing, etc.) to create the very sport-specific act of pedaling a bike. There is no better way to force these cycling muscles to become better at pedaling a bike than by...pedaling a bike.
Invest Your Time Wisely
Traditional triathlon training says that you should include a period of strength training. The idea is that the strength you gain by pushing up a leg press will be converted, at some point in the season, to pushing pedals harder and faster or running faster. In other words, we spend a lot of time doing one thing (packing a bag, driving to the gym, lifting, showering, re-packing, and driving to work/home/etc.) in the hopes that it will eventually help us do another thing better—such as running or riding a bike.
However, what you've really done, by going to the gym two hours a week and pushing up weight on the leg press, is made your legs very good at pushing up weight on the leg press.
Endurance athletes are told to strength train because it will either (A) make you stronger or (B) help prevent injuries. If our ultimate goals are to push pedals harder/faster, to run faster, and to become more efficient and competent at both, shouldn't you be out there on the road instead?
The best, most time efficient machine for improving cycling is your bike and, with an additional two hours of cycling a week versus going to the gym, you'll increase cycling volume by about 30 percent. Now that is a significant change that will improve your ability to ride a bike.