No one has had as much impact on the approach to distance running training as Arthur Lydiard. His approaches during his time coaching in New Zealand during their period of Olympic success in middle distances drove a demand for his services and advice around the world. Hundreds of coaches, including Mark Wetmore at the University of Colorado (as portrayed in Running with the Buffaloes) have implemented his high volume and periodization approach with phenomenal success.
In [amazon_link id="B007HQ58W0" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Running with Lydiard[/amazon_link], the legendary coach shares some topical advice ranging from training approaches and race strategies to diet and injury prevention. The book is rich in examples of how his athletes applied the principals (and those who they competed against did not). His training approach boils down to seven key concepts:
1. Keep your training aerobic until deep in your season. A high aerobic capacity (or strong “aerobic engine”) is the single most important physiological trait for a successful runner for any distance at or beyond 800 meters.
2. Drop your traditional perception of “long, slow distance” (LSD). Lydiard’s definition of “steady-state” effort is a bit faster than the prevailing view that long runs should be run one to two minutes per mile slower than your marathon pace. You should feel winded at the end, and not have too much left in the tank. In essence you are running close to your threshold pace.
3. Pile on the “junk” miles to supplement your training. Most of the running Lydiard prescribes is at the more aggressive “steady-state” effort, but he encourages you to add on unplanned recovery miles (or, anticipation miles) to further increase your training volume.
4. Run by effort or feel and target a specific time period, not miles (or kilometers). Running for a given time really lets you forget about your pace and get a sense for how the “steady state” effort feels. Plus, you need to get comfortable running for the length of time you will be racing.
5. Hit the hills in an aggressive but less structured manner. Springing, sprinting, striding, or just surfing during a regular base run – all are recommended as ways to build your leg strength. Leave your highly-specified hill workouts in the closet, and just hit them at the end of your aerobic phase as often as you can in whatever manner you can manage.
6. Leave your anaerobic workouts for the last 8 weeks of the season, and keep them less structured too. It doesn’t matter if you do them as short intervals, longer intervals, or tempo workouts – the goal is to leave them feeling spent but not wasted.
7. Bump up the kilometers. Lydiard makes 160 km/week (100 miles/week) sound like a walk in the park – and in essence that’s just the base training.
As far as the book is concerned, you may choose to leave it in the dust with your new found aerobic capacity. Over 60% of the content is training plans, and it takes a decoder ring to decipher them. You can find more structured marathon training plans that are heavily Lydiard-inspired in the work of [amazon_link id="B0026IUOX2" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Pfitzinger[/amazon_link]. Plus, Pfitzinger goes into more of the physiology behind training, whereas Lydiard relies on trial and error (and some self-study) in developing and promoting his ideas.
The sound advice he presents gets a bit muffled by what comes across boasting about performances of some runners from the 60′s and 70′s who many of us may no longer be familiar with.
But the criticisms of the book aside, the Lydiard approach is proven and, despite the growth of popularity of the “run less” school of thought, it seems destined to drive the training plans of the vast majority of performance-driven distance runners for years to come.