by Arnie Baker, M.D.
Here’s an important truth about training. When you work on one particular aspect of fitness, others will suffer.
The following triangles represent what is happening: The corners of the triangle might represent speed, endurance, and power. The triangle area represents the total amount of fitness.
The distance from a corner to the center represents the relative amount of that fitness aspect.
Work on speed—endurance and power suffer. Work on both power and endurance—speed worsens.
Alternatively, the triangles might represent hill climbing, sprinting, and time trialing ability. Work on hills—your sprinting and time trial performance worsens. Work on both time trialing and hill climbing—sprinting ability diminishes.
Training specific aspects of fitness decreases other specific aspects of fitness. How then does one improve? How are the best so good at everything?
The Solution for Cyclists
Consider that there are two general training concepts—general fitness and specific fitness. The answer is that fitter riders have bigger triangles
The best riders still experience the same triangle effect—tug on one side to make it bigger and the other sides get smaller. They are so much better overall that it seems as if they have all the types of fitness. They do not.
The best sprinters in the Tour de France do not usually time trial well. The best time trialists in the Tour do not usually sprint well. Sure they do everything better than ordinary mortals, but within the size, or area of their triangles, they still have the same situation.
Overall fitness improves with increases in quality and quantity of work the athlete performs. Many racers, as they go up through the category ranks, increase the amount of time they spend riding as well as the quality of riding through intervals, anaerobic threshold training and racing.
If you concentrate on an aspect of cycling like climbing and riding long distances, by the end of your training program you may not be so snappy on the flats. However, you may find that your overall fitness may have improved so much that you are better at everything.