When I am not training or racing, I am thinking about training or racing. I spend an inordinate amount of time studying and describing the mechanics of the body moving through space. Something I have learned through developing models of the of the pedal stroke and running stride is that the more consistent the athlete is, the better the athlete performs. I know this sounds like a big “duh” concept, but outside of very high level runners, very few people are consistent over the most objective metrics.
So what do I mean by ‘Objective Metrics” and “Consistency”?
Consistency in running means maintaining the same objective metrics of Cadence, Vertical Oscillation, and Ground Contact Time over varying terrain and pace. Keeping those three metrics consistent over varying terrain seems easy, but very few people do. One of the fortunate things about living in Colorado is that I get to see some very elite runners train. It is amazing to see how they keep the same cadence at an 8:00min/mi pace as well as at a 5:00min/mi pace. Cadence or ground contact does not change, just the stride length.
Consistency in cycling is the easiest one to see. Unfortunately this is also the more difficult one to break bad habits and develop consistency. The most important and least expensive objective measures to monitor is Cadence. However there are several others that can be very useful to monitor: Torque (watts), Average Torque Angle, Torque Balance (both side to side and across the pedal), and Overall Constancy of Torque through the pedal stroke. The lack of consistency is seen best during climbing. The best of the best are able to keep the same cadence riding up the Ventoux as they do when they are on the flats. This seems to be more mental than physical for most. Especially in longer climbs (10k +) many athletes maintain the same wattage they do on a flat road but their cadence drops 15%.
Your goal is to train to maintain the objective metrics consistently over varying surfaces and terrains.
But why Coach Adam? I know what the course of my race is going to be like, shouldn’t I just practice on that.
Heavens no. Training the body to be consistent over any and all conditions helps the body maintain proper form even when things go bad. (Personally, my brain goes to mush during the run in a Full. I always get so happy when I get to mile 19 because I think I only have a 5k left.)
The key is not to change your workouts, but to do your workouts in different conditions. If you only do your running on the road, try a gravel trail, or even a field. Tri (pun) do the same same workout with the same objective metrics on a different surface. For cycling, try climbing with your normal/consistent cadence. Something I do quite often is ride the tri bike on dirt roads.
In the end, consistency is king. Pros do not make it look easy because it is easy. They make it look easy because they never make it look hard.
To quote the great Reverend Timothy Lovejoy
“Consistency, sweet consistency”