We had a string of really bad mid-west cold days last week. So I was thinking about writing something about winter running but this topic really bothered me so here goes…
This year’s Hakone Ekiden champion was Aoyama Gakuin University. Interestingly the fact that they employed “Tabata sprints” is now getting a lot of attention in Japan. Here in the US, of course, this argument has been going on for quite some time. You see similar articles all over on the net nowadays; welcome to the land of “High Intensity Interval Training” and the land of “cardio is dead”… It is interesting that, in this particular article, it even states that Tabata Sprint training, even though this workout was introduced by a fellow Japanese researcher, Professor Tabata (interestingly, as a training method for speed skating events), it has won more notoriety in the US than Japan…that is, until now.
Some of you hard-core web searching athletes/coaches know very well what Tabata Sprints workout is all about; you do a bout of 20-second near all-out sprints followed by 10-second recovery…repeat 8 times, total of only 4-minutes!! Bang! No need to do over-an-hour of “cardio” aerobic exercise!! A quick fix and it “hurts so good!!” It is, so many seem to say, the way of future; a micro-wave training. Look! The research shows that you can actually improve VO2Max better than an hour a day cardio (9.5% vs 14%)!! No wonder people think “cardio is dead”…
However, here lies a problem. Fundamental principles of Lydiard training is; “EVERYTHING is important!” Time and again, Lydiard was asked what part of his training program is most important; 100-miles-a-week? Hill Bounding? Time Trial? While developing your aerobic foundation is probably the most important aspect of whatever you decide to do, Lydiard’s answer to the above question has always been: “EVERYTHING!” This is the kind of answer everybody hates to hear. Everybody wants one-word, simple – and hopefully quick and easy – gimmicky answer. As Frank Shorter blatantly slammed the door decades ago; “There’s no secret.” But unfortunately most people look for a silver bullet.
Japanese “running boom” came very late. Sounds rather contradictory; Japanese love marathoning. Before New York and Chicago, before Berlin and London; they had Fukuoka and Beppu and Lake Biwa. Since 1966, Fukuoka had been acting as unofficial marathon world championships. But they were just for selected few – elite marathon races. Then came Tokyo marathon for mass. Now the country of a half the population of the USA has the number of marathon finishers equal to the USA.
In the fall of 2015, when I went back to Japan and met with a representative from a running magazine, “Runners”, he said they were writing an article about Maffetone training. The spring of 2016, when I went back to Japan for the first Lydiard clinic over there, I picked up a running magazine with a main topic being “Long Slow Distance”. You know Japanese; they like to “do it right”. They have no problem building up your foundation first. But the problem with many Japanese corporate warriors is that they don’t have time. They are more opted to go for something “short and sweet”. It only takes 4 minutes a day and you can get better VO2Max improvement! In this particular newspaper article I read about Aoyama-gakuin University team using Tabata Sprints concluded; “…if you are a recreational runners who don’t have a lot of time, this workout may be very beneficial…”
It is VERY dangerous to see just one workout and compare that with which workout did what. Once again, EVERYTHING is important. Each and EVERY workout has to be looked in the scheme of a whole picture. This is something we always talk about during our Lydiard Coaching Certificate Clinic: Imagine you are doing interval training. You go right into interval training simply because it doesn’t take as long time to perform, it’s not as boring, running fast is “sexy”, and it’s proven by science that you can achieve “better” results by running fast!! Think about it this way; if you hadn’t done AEROBIC work first, your threshold level is lower and you’ll get into high oxygen debt at SLOWER pace, hence your overall interval PACE is slower!! So you will be doing race-specific training at slower overall pace – in other words, you are training to race slower. At this land of “cardio is dead”, I’ve seen so many people circling track or going up and down near-by trail at barely 9-minute-mile pace, huffing and puffing like they are at the death door! They ARE working on developing anaerobic capacity; but AT VERY MUCH SLOWER PACE simply because they cannot run fast aerobically.
Along the trail I run often, there is a CrossFit gym. Sometimes I see people “sprinting” up and down the parking lot. Some of them landing hard on their heels, hardly lifting their knees (i.e.: jogger’s shuffling form), apparently struggling… If simply huffing and puffing hard is your objective, this is fine. But if your objective is to RUN BETTER, or improve your running performance, then you might need a little more specific “purpose” to your workout…and the STRUCTURE of combination of workouts in a correct sequential manner that you would achieve best possible benefit from the training PLAN – not just a single WORKOUT or a type of workout.
Last summer (June 2016), an article came out from Runner’s World about how to maximize your aerobic energy. Basically in summary, in order to increase the number and size of mitochondria, you need VOLUME of exercise; while, to improve FUNCTION of mitochondria, you need INTENCITY of exercise. Basically, as Lydiard had always said; “EVERYTHING IS IMPORTANT.” You need volume AND intensity. But then, the question is; when do you do what and how you put them together. A simple question then would be: Wouldn’t you want to have LOTS of BIG mitochondria in your muscles first before you make them more functiuonal?
I read this article when I was flying out to Japan for the Lydiard Coaching Certificate Clinic in Japan. I read the article while flying over to Narita airport and was thinking about this while running in the morning before the clinic started. I was thinking in my sleepy brain; regarding our on-line Lydiard training program, “Running Wizard” algorithm put together by the late Dr. Dick Brown based on statistics, calculation, and educated guess (and tweaked by me); even if you are training for a 5k — and even for a full marathon plan, the basic principles are the same too — , you will go up over 2-hours during the conditioning phase. Then toward the end of the cycle, you’ll be doing a workout called Cut-Down and also famous 50/50 (details of workout, 50/50, HERE). Now, if you are a 1:30 half marathon guy (I know LT pace is NOT your half marathon race pace but, for the argument sake, let’s take that as a yard stick), for 50/50, you’ll be “sprinting” your 50m sprint at 333m/minute speed compared to your half marathon pace of 234m/minute. That’s about 42% faster than roughly your LT pace; or roughly 10% slower than your calculated all-out 100m speed. I don’t know what “200% of Peak Power” running speed may be; but the point is, contrary to many seem to believe, there IS a place for near all-out sprint workout in the Lydiard Program (and, yes, a marathon plan includes 50/50 as well!) which comes AFTER doing lots of volume of running (AND after going through Hill Training to prep yourself to run fast). Once again, wouldn’t you prefer working on developing the function of mitochondria AFTER you’ve increased the number and the size of them first?
When Japanese federation sent their top marathon runners to New Zealand (led by the legendary Coach Kiyoshi Nakamura) to study Lydiard training to get ready for 1964 Tokyo Olympics, they were surprised to learn there was so much (almost) full-out sprints in the Lydiard program. They would do 30-40 X 50m full-sprints around the Domein in Auckland. Upon returning to Japan after a few months, one of these runners, Toru Terasawa, broke Abebe Bikila’s world record. Everything is important; and there’s the right time to do all that and would have to be done in a correct sequence!!