As solid a statement I have ever heard, it applies to most anything. I'll expand here to illustrate what I mean.
1) Athletics - Seems obvious, and though my athletic abilities seem limited to running and biking (and I mean limited), I do okay for my age group, especially in multisport. As a straight runner, I am capable of way more, but without putting serious time into training, will never catch the rabbits in the top 10%. I PR'd not long ago on a 1/2 marathon (1:39), but I know (with considerable time and effort), I could be in the 1:25 range. Biking? I'm not experienced enough or fast enough to even hang out with riders. I won't even say anything about swimming. But put these together, and I do okay. I can run a 7 to 7:30 min pace after a 20-22 mph ride on a medium course. The formula is simple: effective training + more time = better performance. My marathon performance is better when I put the time and effort in. This year I failed to put adequate time into longer runs, and it showed. I need to decide haw to best utilize my time in 2010. There is no substitute for training.
2) Drinking - I am not a big drinker. Actually, I don't drink very often, or very much; when I do, my tolerance is low, so the span from sober - buzzing - drunk is quite narrow. In another lifetime, that span was quite broad, as I was trained for it. Actually, I was probably training for this four days per week (ah, college youth). While I do not wish to ever engage in this kind of behavior again, the difference is clear. While on vacation last week, I found myself reverting to an evening of consumption best reserved for those trained to finish above the 80th percentile. Fortunately, my body's early warning system reawakened after a two-decade long siesta, stopping me from continuing what would have devolved into an ugly and painful outcome. I think that being ill/hungover while at sea is a bad combination. I have not been training to drink, nor do I want to. But if consumption is planned, it may be best to occasionally imbibe. There is no substitute for training.
3) Eating - I am not a big eater. I enjoy food, but for the most part it serves a purpose. I watch what I eat - watch it going down my gullet. Really, I pay attention and watch the volume and keep from overdoing 'bad' foods. I'm not overweight, but am 5-10 lbs above an ideal racing weight. That said, I do like to eat certain things, and can easily overdo them, if they are to my liking. I can put away 1/2lb of pasta, or 1/2 loaf of French bread, or 3-4 bagels, plates of stir-fry. While on vacation last week, there was endless opportunity to eat. While I limited myself, I ate way more than normal, resulting in a few (okay six) additional pounds as a souveneir from my cruise (not continuing this exercise has caused the weight to drop again). Towards the end of the week, I grew tired of eating. I was full after a cup of soup. I simply wasn't hungry. For comparison, there were professional eaters all around. From buffet hounds to professionals (not quite up to Mr. Creosote), these people ate like it was a sport. This was their arena, and like [food] gladiators, they battled themselves to maximize their intake. Years of training came down to this: An endless supply of prepared food on a 7-night cruise. This is where their training paid off. The top finishers would consume more value than they paid. The back of the pack folks would subsidize the bill. But we all had fun and got something out of it. There is no substitute for training.