Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sport Specificity: The Power of Cyclo- cross

Sport Specificity- "the principle of training that states that sports training should be relevant and appropriate to the sport for which the individual is training in order to produce a training effect."  When this is applied to CX, it's important to remember that simply using the equipment, or just "riding around" on gravel or grass is not synonymous to CX, but more to road riding.

I've looked through numerous references for the metabolic demands of cyclocross on and off for years from numerous sources like  Bing, Google and scholarly articles.  Each time I'm met with disappointment.   It just seems that there has been absolutely no peer reviewed research published on the subject.  This leads me to believe one of two things.  1) The simply is no research done on the demands of CX.  Or 2) There have been no published studies on the matter.  For the sake of knowledge, I am optimistic that the second is the case.  However, I must admit that it is equally likely that option 1 may be the truth due to CX not being an Olympic sport (note the publish date).  So how do you train for CX? 

My quest begins when I worked for a previous employer (as an intern who went on to become a Senior Level Coach) and had the thought that, "CX must be different than other disciplines when considering preparation."  So I did what anyone else in my position would do.  I asked the "higher ups."  The answer was disappointing, at best.    I was told to, "train them like they're doing a time trial and everything else is gravy."  Gravy? Seriously?  Not only was the answer just plain wrong, but it led me to believe that there wasn't really any sort of method to training for CX.  Below are two pictures.  One of a Time Trial, one of a CX race.  Both have heart and power graphed.  Which one is which?  Just guess......  give it a try.......

Okay, so now we can at least agree that the two events are dramatically different. Back to the first paragraph.... I talked about searching for the knowledge and I've read countless declarations from different coaches, some with backgrounds in Exercise Physiology (which they typically brag about on their web 'profile'), most without any formal higher education , all of which I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with.  This discipline is very specialized and therefore requires a very different approach.  I began to implement some ideas about the execution of a more specific training approach with some clients as early as August and the dividends are starting to pay off.  After talking with a couple different clients early this week, the comments were the same: "I've never done anything like that in training before.  But I'm not complaining!"

Training was able to be focused very differently yet equal in effectiveness for these clients largely because of the use of power meters.  The data these tools yield allow me to pinpoint and improve weaknesses in each athlete's ability. Most clients are not "happy" about the process of improving their weaknesses, but they sure do appreciate the benefits!

I'd love to spend an entire blog post or 2 or 3 dissecting, analyzing, and divulging my findings.  Instead, I'll just let the results of last week's CX race do the "show and tell."

A Recap of results from the Boss CX 1 and 2 Events

Aubree Dock: 3rd Place in Women  4, Saturday.
Wanda Simchuk: 3rd.  Women Open, Sunday.
Dean Parker: 2nd.  Men 55+, Saturday
                     1st.  Men 55+, Sunday
Jason Knight: 1st Place.  Men 3-4, Saturday.
Mark Cole: 1st Place.  Men 3-4, Sunday.
Joseph Schmalz: 1st Place.  Men Elite, Saturday
                          1st Place. Men Elite, Sunday