Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Let's Get Specific... or Not

Photo by Filip Kwiatkowski for The New York Times

Ever feel you could be a faster runner if it were not for having to spend so much time on the bike? Or maybe you're like me and look over at the uber-swift swimmers in the fast lane with admiration just to find out the only thing they do is swim.

In a recent conversation, the best runner (as in sub 5 minute miles in a sprint triathlon) in my triathlon club said, "I used to be a fast runner before I started triathlon."

*blink* *blink*

USED to be a fast runner? He runs like 4:50s after pounding the bike for 45 minutes and he doesn't consider himself fast?? ...sigh...

It appears there's a reason for all of this "relative under-performance" and it's called non-specificity. In other words... to be your best at any one sport you have to do only one sport. Plus, to frustrate things, the gains we make in one discipline can work to the detriment of another. An example is the large quadriceps built from heavy biking weighs us down during the run.

What's a back-of-the-middle-of-the-packer, like me, to do?

Health reporter Gina Kolata last week wrote for the NY Times an article right up our triathlon alley. It's pretty informative if not another example of our sport becoming more mainstream. If the NY Times is paying somebody to write about it there must be a large and growing audience for the subject.

Hmmmmmm... we're not as alone in as we might think.

Check out the article HERE.

Stay tuned...


15 comments:

tarheeltri said...

I think it's an interesting theory, but doesn't take into consideration people who haven't already developed their specialty when starting triathlon. Take me for instance, cycling more and running less has tremendously improved my running... but then again, when you start with 10:30 per mile avg, there's not a whole lot that can make you slower.

You've inspired me to write something more indepth on this topic. Look for it in a day or two on my blog!

Trihardist said...

Triathlon isn't about being exceptionally skilled at any one sport, usually; it is, as a friend of mine once said, the skill of being solidly mediocre in three.

With fast transitions.

So perhaps, as tarheeltri postulates, those who are already solidly mediocre come into triathlon with an advantage!

IronJenny said...

I agree with trihardest! especially about the "... and fast transitions" part!

Comm's said...

sport specificity is absolutely correct for single event athletics whether that be the bench press or the 5k.

I know coming from a running background into triathlon, my mile time is slower by about a minute on average at any distance.

swimbikerunnap said...

I just spent a whole bunch of time on a long run yesterday trying to decide whether my serious bike slacking explains the gains I have been seeing in my running performance. I had a sneaking suspicion that it did, and am off to read the article.

And then go for a bike ride and get over it :-)

triguyjt said...

I understand the concept of that article completely...but I love the fact that each day can bring a different discipline. Last time, I looked, I was not Macca, so I just enjoy competing and knowing that I can swim, or bike or run with as much skill and output as I care to put into it...
Variety is the spice of life...

Curly Su said...

so i read that article a few days ago, and this was my question -

in it, it states the number of triathletes in the US as about 100,00...doesn't that seem low? what do you think qualifies as a triathlete??

Curly Su said...

i meants 100,000 - of course...

Shelley said...

Thanks for the article Boomer..you are so informative as usual..:-)

Cliff said...

TriBoomer,

Peter Reid mentioned that if he trained too much on his bike, he would build too much quads to make him a fast runner.

2:45 is not a fast marathon times. For IM (and even us mortals), that's a very fast time. For a marathon runner, 2:45 will not be fast at all.

Steve Stenzel said...

I hear you. I feel I could be a faster runner too. But I just love this tri stuff too much!!

Vickie said...

Interesting article, and something I noticed last year particularly. I know I have to concentrate mainly on running to get better at running again, and getting better at running with make me a better triathlete, even if I'm not the fastest.

Iron Eric said...

Someone from my running group sent me this article.

Some of it holds true. Of course you will be best at running if all you do is run.

Viv said...

Thanks for sharing the article. I can understand where the writer is coming from but I rather be slow at all 3 and keep having fun while still tri-ing to get faster and better. Plus, some of us can't run everyday without getting a new set of legs weekly.

Love your blog!!

Peter said...

...and then there are those of us (middle of the pack)who actually enjoy the sport of triathlon in spite of only so much time to train per discipline.