It’s no secret that I love to call people out on their BS. Especially on social media and forum boards although I will admit that I have given up on forum boards almost completely. They just seem to go in circles and never progress. I’m tired of having the same conversations over and over again. I do, however, love social media and the connections I’ve created on there as well as staying in the loop with my team and friends. So, being the ass that I am, I often get involved or make comments when folks spew their training crap. It just gets really frustrating to see the same garbage propagated when good information is out there and usually, much much simpler than the convoluted gobbledygook being thrown all over Facebook and Twitter.
One of the most moronic statements/arguments I hear is that being a more “well rounded” or “better” athlete makes you a faster triathlete. Which, of course, is complete nonsense and couldn’t be further from the truth. The goal, of any athlete, should be to be as SPECIFIC as humanly possible, NOT well rounded. Being well rounded means being mediocre. Often this argument comes up in the context of the strength training debate but it’s applicable anywhere. Proponents of strength training love to come back with, “Yeah, but it makes you a stronger, more well rounded athlete which in turn is going to make you faster.” Ummmm, yeah, that’s not even remotely correct. This idea that strength/power or even fitness is universal and will “help” with any kind of athletic endeavor is just ridiculous.
All you have to do is look at the top of the three individual sports, Swimming, Cycling and Running in isolation. If you look at the top of all those sports, those athletes are NOT well rounded. They are 100% specific to their sport in their training and even their body type. If you took a swimmer out of the pool and had them get on a bike, they would suck and runners would suck in the pool and cyclists would suck at swimming etc etc etc. Why? Because they do NOT want to be, nor train to be, well rounded athletes. They train to simply “go faster” at their respective disciplines and that’s it….period.
You actually don’t need to go any further than triathlon to prove what I am saying. I have no doubt that we are starting to see real, world class athletes take up the sport of triathlon. So why is it that these world class athletes, while training as triathletes, could never compete at the highest level in each of the three individual disciplines? Because their training is not specific enough. Alistair Brownlee would have to completely ditch swim and cycling if he wanted to pursue a career as a runner. We all saw that he is a fantastic runner but not even close to world class. It would take a complete change in dedication and training to get him to that position, if it’s even possible. Another great example is the Olympic Decathlon. If you go to the Decathlon Wiki page, it lists the best times and distances for each discipline from decathletes and then compares them to current world records in each discipline. You probably already know the results….yup, not even close.
Specificity rules. Always has and always will. So is there a place for cross training and/or strength training? Of course there is. There always will be. But that “place” is specific to the individual and NOT a universal piece of training advice. If someone asks my opinion on strength training, I give them my tried and true response…. “it depends.” It is not universally true that strength training (which could mean 8 billion things depending on who you are talking to) will make you a faster triathlete. Running more will. Swimming more will. Cycling more will. But strength training? or Yoga? or Crossfit? or whatever? Maybe, maybe not. IT DEPENDS. It depends on the individual. But you CAN NOT, well, you can but you SHOULD NOT universally encourage people to do things that may or may not get them to their goals. Whatever that goal may be. Now, at the highest level, where individuals are maxed out on how much specificity they can do at their particular sport, you may see some purposeful cross training or strength training IN AN ATTEMPT to draw that last 1% out of the athlete that may be the difference between winning or losing. Even that is an attempt….and not a for sure thing. You often see top athletes change their cross training regiment throughout their careers as they address different issues or just try something different again, in an attempt to illicit a very small response. Very rarely does their core training change appreciably. Meaning runners will run in training and not start doing hand stands to try and get faster. This is actually the reason top athletes dope. They have started bumping up against their genetic potential and realize that the only way they can get better is to somehow be able to do more SPECIFIC training. But they’re maxed? So what to do? Well, if you dope, you can recover faster, train harder and more. That’s where the majority of a dopers advantage comes from.
It really comes down to being specific and meaningful when we talk. Do you want to get faster? Or do you want to be more “well rounded” for life. Do you want it to be easier to pick up that bag of dog food while still doing some tri training on the side? A completely legitimate goal but again, specific to the individual. Are you an older athlete that wants to combat muscle degradation in other areas besides SBR? Cool, have at it but understand that what you are doing is a compromise from the optimal training to make you the fastest triathlete you can be. Which is perfectly ok, but quit trying to tell people it is imperative or crucial to getting faster because it absolutely is not. Are you trying to prevent injuries? Awesome, even though you probably have no clue if that’s what you are actually doing or not because that is almost impossible to test or quantify.
I know not everyone’s goal is to be the fastest triathlete they can be. I know that’s probably NOT the goal of 90% of triathletes. So quit acting like that is the goal and doing dumb shit and trying to justify it as “making you a better athlete” in order to improve at triathlons (which, as a race is solely defined by how fast you go). Call it what it is, a compromise from optimal in order to satisfy some “other” goal specific to you! There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be well rounded. So be clear when you speak.
Maybe you just enjoy the hell out of crossfit…..that’s fine…. just say that!