Is specificity really that important?

I rode my bike on a club ride yesterday.
It’s the first time I’ve ridden this year, I run a lot these days instead. In fact I’ve barely ridden for two years.

I was as fast on the climbs as I’ve ever been. It felt effortless and I could produce tons of force both seated and standing. I could toy with the other riders, luring them into my trap then burning them up. :laughing:

Only anecdotal I know as I gave up bothering to measure power years ago, but I know the relative strengths of the people around me.

So why do we get so hung up on all the details? Fitness is fitness for me, whether I’m running 200m or 50 miles, riding cx or going on a bikepacking trip.
I train to feel these days. If I’m tired I rest or take a walk. If I feel good I enjoy cruising through the landscape. Sometimes I go full gas which I love.
I read so much of people fretting over the tiniest details and sometimes I really want to give them a nudge and say “it doesn’t matter”. “Just do something, and that’s good enough”.

This is all a bit tongue in cheek. I’m kinda just messing with you, but it constantly surprises me how when I’m fit and strong, I can turn my hand to just about any aspect of endurance, without having to do specific training for it.

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It’s pretty important if you want race results in an appropriate class.

If your goal is simply to “burn up” people on the streets or sandbag a beginner class, then no, it’s not that important.

Sounds like you benefited from a high volume of general training and got pretty fast, even without riding a bike. You could be faster.

You’ve gotta admit it’s mad though how I could climb on a bike and it feel so wierd and alien to me, then a few minutes later settling into the first climb and thinking “where is everyone?” turning round and seeing them all strung out.
(Come on, we all love that feeling! :laughing:)

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If you want marginal gains, specificity matters.

I think what most people suffer from is a lack of volume, and that low volume ONLY being efforts too low to make you stronger, but too much work to let you be rested enough to go hard next time.

Once I get back into the mood to train, I’m going to see how strong I can get without focusing too hard on the details. I like to do a ton of volume at Z1/Z2 effort. In the past I have been very strong with no specific training at all, just occasional hard efforts. Too much focus on the details burns me out fast, just not fun. So I’m going to try and do something in between; use my knowledge of specificity and zones but without stressing the details.

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Yeah, I do a ton of volume because I love being out there tapping along happily.


Sounds like you are benefiting from aerobic fitness, and you are mistaking above average aerobic fitness in a group ride with training specific to an event or a type of riding.

I remember a few years back, I went on a business trip to Zurich. I didn’t want to go to sleep early (I flew in from Japan, arrived in the morning and wanted to avoid going to bed too early), so I went for a run. I ended up climbing up Zürichberg and did 18.5 km with 500 m of elevation gain. I hadn’t done a single run in maybe a year.

I felt miserable the next day, my legs were all cramped up. Lack of specificity. My cardiovascular system was super well-trained, my leg muscles not so much.

With my regular training, I could easily train for a half marathon or marathon in short time. I wouldn’t do stellar times, I am sure, I could finish. My wife wants to do a half marathon, so I might just run with her (if we can find a babysitter).

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This sounds like a loooot of fun :laughing:. I’m glad you are having fun with it. There is something magical about connecting to that playful child-like aspect of movement, as it sounds like you are :star2: :dizzy: :sparkles: .

Specficity is important if you have specific goals, and if you are trying ot maximise your potential… (i.e be as fast as you possibly can be). Likewise, specifcity becomes more important, the closer you get to your potential, and the more seasoned you become as an athlete. But the importance of specificity fluctuates throughout a training year depending on how close you are to your A events.

Although I recognise your tongue and cheek, there is some truth to what you are saying! :raised_hands: Having a solid base level of fitness will lend well to a variety of activities, as you’ve noticed. And having fun with your training is SO important. If you enjoy your training, you’ll do it consistently. And consistency is key!!

If you’re going after a measurable and specific goal, the details matter; but at some points more than others.

Regardless, keep having fun with it! :face_holding_back_tears:


Thank you. I always have fun with it. I love training, racing, chillin after training… you get what I mean.
The only time I didn’t love it was when I trained really properly; under a coach not TR. Yes I got fast for a bit, raced to National level and scored top 20s in both cx and xc, but then everything started breaking down both mentally and physically. Took me about 5 years to properly recover.
So now I train by feel, allow it to flow naturally, and yes I do preach that there is another way to those that’ll listen.
Turn 50 this year and I’m getting savage fast again. I’m still improving too. It’s nuts and I’m loving the journey.
So when I jumped on my dusty road bike last night and found I could still really grind out that power, I was delighted. I’d enter a regional cx race tomorrow and back myself for a decent result.

Ok Sarah. Let me put this to you:
When I raced properly, I always used to say I’d back an ‘up for it’ version of myself vs a super trained version of myself.
Thing I found was that the specific training sessions made me pain averse during racing due to the amount of discomfort I’d endured during training. Whereas if I was in ‘death or glory mode’ I’d perform beyond expectations.
Therefore I put to you that a laise faire approach to training and a joyous approach to racing is faster than a more formulaic approach.
I’ve genuinely found this happening many times.

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You can go a long way on general aerobic fitness. And some goals actually align well with that approach (especially the longer endurance stuff). But other events are going to reward specificity to maximize performance. From what you are describing, it sounds like you are probably just significantly stronger than the others in the group that day. If crushing that specific group ride is the only goal, it sounds like you are strong enough to hit that goal without specificity. But that approach will only take you so far (which doesn’t matter if you are happy with where you are at).

Last weekend, I did a race called “Rule of 3” in Arkansas. It’s a cool format with a mix of pavement, gravel, and singletrack. It’s the poster child for specificity (both from a fitness perspective as well as skills and equipment). My training has been focused on long endurance/gravel racing, so I’ve got the fitness to diesel hard all day and I crushed the road and gravel sections of that race. But I bled time on the single track with the constant punchy efforts and technical bike handling. It was a “C” race for me, so I didn’t prioritize it, but if it had been a “A” race I would have done a lot more anaerobic and v02 repeatability work and also spent some prep time riding single track on my gravel bike. My overall aerobic fitness was enough to get a decent result, but I could have been 30+ minutes faster if I had done some training specific to the single track.

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Oh trust me… I TOTALLY get what you mean.

Both of these statements raise a :triangular_flag_on_post: - sounds like burnout to me? If I were to guess, it sounds like you were doing too much?

I know your personal experience suggests otherwise, but these do not need to be mutually exclusive if you’re following a well structured Training Plan. Have you used TrainerRoad since we released Red Light Green Light?

If you’ve spent time on the forum, I’m sure you’ve heard about it? It’s our latest feature that monitors your training to help prevent long-term fatigue and burnout.

When I am overetrained, it ALWAYS shows up as you have described. I lose the enjoyment for the sport I LOVE, I start to get injured or sick and my motivation and emotional health suffers. But that was because, historically, I was NOT following an Adaptive TrainerRoad Training Plan. I was simply doing too much. Red Light Green Light prevent this.

I’d be curious to see if you could find joy in cycling while following a well designed, Adaptive Training Plan that prevents burnout? If you need help deciding what Training Plan would be best for you, let me know and I’d be happy to help you find something that will allow you to have fun while making you faster!

Either way, I LOVE that you love cycling regardless of what that looks like for you. I’d just be hesitant to write off all Trainiing Plans because you had a bad experience with some (likely badly designed).

Thank you for taking the time to reply. I would loved to have used your latest version of TR to train back in the day. I think it’d have done a much better job on me than my coach.
Those days are behind me now though. I adopt what would be best described as a Kenyan approach to training: I get up at dawn and just go out and run. I try to stay calm and fluid and if that means walking sometimes in the cool morning air then that’s fine.
Sessions are done with others. Groups bring out the best in me. I chase or get chased. It’s very primal.
This approach is serving me well. I think cycling is very data driven due to it’s Western bias. Distance running is dominated by East Africans who are more intuitive. I like that.


How many of those you were racing on the hill have a background at a similar level?

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There are also just people whose untrained FTP is about the peak FTP of others. Maybe that’s you.
I have to ride a lot (way beyond 10h/w) to gain at least a tiny bit of noticable endurance, being much more a strength type.

That sounds absolutely delightful :heart_eyes:. And sounds like it’s working for you- keep it up :raised_hands: .