The Questions of Lydiard Training:
* “We only have 3 months to train; how can we apply the Lydiard program?”
* “I’ve been running for more than 4 years now; do we still need to spend 3 months conditioning? ”
* “How fast should I be doing my intervals? ”
* “What’s ¼ effort?”
These are a few of the common questions of Lydiard training, questions that I myself asked when I first learned of Lydiard training. Some were answered when Arthur kindly sent me a copy of his Athletic Training
pamphlet in 1981 when he was working as a Public Relation Officer for Winston, a construction company in Auckland, New Zealand, I was mesmerized with how simple and how logical his training program was. Athletic Training
had been revised and updated over the years (it is now available at our site here
In 1999, when Arthur asked me to organize his lecture tour, I was assigned the task of revising Athletic Training. I told him, “I’ve waited 20 years to do this!” At the same time, I started to see some common questions regarding the application of the Lydiard program such as the ones above. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if we could actually plug them in to some sort of calculated formula to give out a personalized program?
Dr. Richard Brown’s Contribution:
It has been a long journey and I can still remember how it all started. It was over a Christmas vacation 2 years ago. I was visiting Lorraine in Boulder and we were talking about some sort of on-line training program. “You know, I remember Dick Brown had something like that…” Dr Dick Brown is a former exercise physiologist/coach for Nike’s prestigious Athletic West. He had coached such notable elite athletes as Vicki Huber, Suzy Favor Hamilton, Shelly Steely and Mary Decker Slaney in 1980s and 1990s. I first met Dr Brown at Atlanta
Olympics where he coached Vicki Huber (in 1500m) and Suzy Favor Hamilton (in 800m). I was in Atlanta with Dick Quax who was also a coach at Athletic West in late 1970s and early 1980s. Dr Brown was already a very well established athletic coach then but he was completely drawn to Lydiard method. He often visited the late Bill Bowerman up on the hill-top, looking over McKenzie River. “I thought I got the art of peaking pretty well,” Dr Brown would say. “But I had always wondered about the art of developing athletes.” Bowerman handed him an old beaten up red booklet called Athletic Training. It was one of the original versions and the first step towards Lydiard book, “Running with Lydiard”. “If you want to study a complete training program,” Bowerman told Dr Brown, “then go back to Lydiard.”
Dr. Brown became hooked on Lydiard training. As a scientist and mathematician he spent almost 2 years
taking the periodization pyramid that is the format of Lydiard’s training system and went to work with an Excel sheet and a calculator. For all distances between 1500m to 50-miles Dr Brown began developing formulas with individual runner’s variables such as their most current race performance and the longest duration in minutes they felt comfortable running. Eventually he was able to perfect his formulas to produce full training schedules, based on Lydiard’s training system, along with the daily pace for each workout, based on the calculated VO2Max of the runner. This pace was not randomly assigned but came from estimating with remarkable accuracy the VO2 max of the individual using their previous race time. The basis for this was the form the research he had conducted on the elite runners at Athletics West when he was Director. Dr Brown jumped at the chance to join Lorraine and I at Lydiard Foundation and bring this runners on a grand scale. “When I asked Arthur how I could thank him,” he explained, “Arthur told me to spread his training method. This is my contribution to a great man.”
Dr Brown had been using this program to coach some of his athletes, some elite level and some recreational joggers. They all improved and had great fun following it. Lorraine summed it up: “This takes the guesswork out of training.” In today’s cyber-world we recognized that this could be our ticket to spread Lydiard’s method in a very simple way. Little did we know, however, that our challenge was only just beginning.
It was literally the largest Excel program anybody had ever seen – 256 wide in columns and 742 deep in rows!! When we first brought it to our website savvy friend, he threw his hands up and told us it would be way too much work as to be impractical. Then Lorraine reconnected with an old running friend of hers, a former 400m stand-out, Dallas Jones, who is also a computer programmer and like many of Lorraine’s friends, quite fearless. He agreed to do it.
Starting with base training we first established formulas to identify Easy Steady Pace (Lydiard’s ¼ effort) and the faster workout that Dr Brown termed “Out-and-Back” (Lydiard’s ¾ effort run). While giving strict minutes-per-mile was never Arthur’s intention nor preference, we took the initiative to actually do just that. This is because (a) we wanted to, if anything, slow people down a bit for most days and (b) also establish slightly higher effort to make sure people don’t just jog around every day. Effort is very important even during the initial Aerobic Conditioning Phase and, in most cases, people either run them too slow or too fast. Of course, every individual is different and the runner’s needs vary from day to day and Lydiard always emphasized that. To accommodate that we provided a guideline range for both the duration and pace for each day’s workout – roughly 20~30 seconds per mile on the faster side and approximately 45 seconds per mile on the slower side (if in doubt, err on easy side). While we attempted to stay on the conservative side it checked out very well with runners we knew and worked with. We actually plugged in 26:59 – 10000m performance for Chris Solinsky – to see how it works. His Steady Long Aerobic Run would come out as approximately 5:55 per mile pace which was equivalent to his reported training pace. For the Out-and-Back workout it was reported that he would do a 7-mile run at 4:45 pace. That tallied well with our program’s 42 minutes Out-and-Back at 4:55 pace (approximately 8.5 miles).
The Out-and-Back workout is signature Lydiard. In his book, Arthur stressed the importance of going out at a certain pace, turning around and coming back in the same time or very slightly faster. The Out-and-Back is not a time trial to see how fast you can run but rather a very good discipline to control the even but strong effort throughout the workout. A variation of this workout used in later phases is what we termed the “Progress Calibration Run”. This is another signature Lydiard workout. Using the same course, or the same duration, and running at a pre-set heart-rate or effort the runner can run faster (or further) as he/she gets fitter. This runs assists in calibrating pace and gauging progress. In the final phases of training the equivalent workout is a time trial, particularly useful for track
It is interesting that many people simply see a term “Time Trial” without understanding the concept of Lydiard or what he was getting at. Arthur always emphasized the folly of going at a workout and not understanding what you are trying to achieve in terms of physiological adaptation. That alone will throw you off from progressing. To help you along we have specified the pace for each workout, including Out-and-Back and Progress Calibration Run.
Gradual Speed Development:
While working on the pace progression, I found something very interesting. I was reading an article in the old Runner’s World magazine, written none other than Bill Bowerman. One of his signature training principles is “Date-Pace/Goal-Pace” workouts (as you probably know Bill Bowerman was a disciple of Lydiard’s). We have employed just that. The pace progression with our program is gradual, having been
plotted linearly between where you are now right through to the goal race pace. Of course runners to not progress like a graph, they go one side of the line and then the other, which is why we have ranges, to allow for that variation on each side of the line. If you read Lydiard’s book carefully, you’ll realize that he always emphasized the importance of “gradual speed development.” In other words, when you first start out on a track schedule, or Anaerobic Phase, your speed is not fully developed. So it is only natural that your first Time Trial could be rather disappointing – a minute or even more slower for 5k than you want. As you work on your speed and you become more efficient at running that particular distance, you’ll naturally get faster. Far too many people come up with formulas that are time-based and it throws the runner off the very purpose of the workout and natural progression. They strive for time and end up doing the wrong kind of workout for the phase they are in. So we came up with a completely different type of formula and specified certain effort levels for each Time-Trial, Progress Calibration Run or Out-and-Back workout. The program follows a pattern, exactly following Arthur’s instructions (and Bill Bowerman’s), taking you right up to the peak fitness for your target race.
In March this year, we all got together at Lorraine’s house in Boulder, CO, and worked on the entire program. We went over each element, item by item, making sure that they were consistent with Lydiard. Our eternal question was “What would Arthur say?” If we didn’t know, we deferred to “If in doubt, do less.” We kept asking each other questions like; “What if we only have 16 weeks? How do we divide the phases?” or “What if a person can only commit to 4-days-a-week of training?” Each of us went back and drew back what Arthur would have said as a cue to put together the formulas.
Our biggest debate was on how to shorten the program for someone who does not have 24 weeks to train. For example, the one I vividly remember is taper week. A full 24-week program has 2-weeks of taper before the target race. These are easy weeks. So, as the program gets shorter than 24-weeks, we removed one of these 2 weeks first. After all, it’s not contributing much to racing fitness. Then Lorraine threw a question; “But, wait! Didn’t Arthur always say, ‘It’s always better to be under-trained than over-trained’???” So we revised and left the taper weeks intact.
Here’s another common situation: Before I met with Arthur, I was running up to 100 miles a week but I was also one of those people who kept doing conditioning and never moved on. Upon studying my training log, the first thing Arthur told me was; “You need to do some intervals!” So for those who are more experienced runners or aerobically more adequately developed (“Plan B”), we took out conditioning weeks first and kept all the rest of the program. Arthur also said that, for developing athletes, anaerobic intervals are the least important thing. So for a young start-up runner or those whose aerobic foundation is still not fully developed (“Plan A”), we retained the conditioning weeks and took out interval weeks first. “What would Arthur say?” was the key to developing this program. We tried to implement everything we learnt from the Old Man into this program.
Dick’s Excel program was one of the largest and, hence, one of the most flexible and personalized program out there. It calculates each person’s VO2Max and draws each day’s workout pace accordingly. But even with a program 256 wide and 742 deep could only cover so much. That’s where magic of high-tech “internet” came in. We didn’t need to put everything in one program. By a click of a button, thanks to the magic of cyber world, website can draw the most appropriate program out for you. We ended up writing 475 separate programs to suite all situations we could think of. Each program was ingrained with 3 different fitness level; 60-minute, 90-minute and 120-minute duration being a comfortable long run; so, in effect, we have provided 1425 programs!! Considering this program automatically calculates individual’s VO2Max and set out his/her most effective training pace, the choice really is indefinite to fit your utmost effective training program. We have also provided pace chart for interval workout at (in)famous ¼, ½ and ¾ effort with suggested range as well as suggested effort distribution for each and every interval workout in our training program (this will soon be available in the workout description page of our program). So, as Lorraine had put it, by using our program, there really isn’t much of guess-work any more. This is the ultimate “idiot-proof” Lydiard training program.
Also, one of our biggest features of this program is what we call “Recovery Indicators” developed also by Dr Brown. While Director of Athletics West, he researched the nation’s top athletes, using 33 items to measure the body’s reactions to their daily workout routine. Out of those 33, 12 came back as good indicators for the athlete’s recovery rate. And, of these 12, 3 came back as statistically significant as accurate predictors for over-training and recovery rate that you can check by yourself easily at home. We incorporated these Recovery Indicators and, if detected, the program will tell you to either take it easy on that day; or take a day off. Today, far too many people end up performing sub-par in the actual competition not because they don’t work hard; but because they work too hard. They try to bull through the program regardless of how their body is reacting and adjusting to the program – the program that is not necessarily tailored to their personal fitness level – like our program is – to begin with. Consequently, they keep piling up workouts without giving their body a chance to recover and, by the time they toe the starting line, they are exhausted.
Initially we described this on-line training program as the “Interactive Training Program” because it is as good as you can get in terms of individualizing the program to your personal level as well as showing you how to adjust the workout to your own rate of recovery. Of course, whether or not you actually follow it is still up to you. Lorraine and I spent a lot of time creating the workout descriptions as well; just by a click of a mouse, you’ll get a detailed description of each workout. We are also in a process of adding Arthur’s own voice, explaining each workout and how it should be done and why. This would really add the illusion that you are actually being coached by Arthur Lydiard himself! And, of course, a beauty of this is; if you argue, he wouldn’t yell back at you and chase you down with a stick (as he might have in real life???
I was reading this book from Japan and it talks about the legacy of a person. It was about a teacher and the lasting memories that he left upon all his students. One of them says; “They say that a person dies twice. First, when his/her physical self dies (incidentally, it was Arthur’s 6 years memorial just a few days earlier on 12/11). Secondly when all the memories of that person diminish from the rest of us. But I believe that there is the third stage. It is when the creation or tradition that a person had started is passed on and on and on, from generation to generation…, even by people who have never heard of him/her. Then that person never dies…” It made me think of Arthur Lydiard. Once I gave an autographed picture of Arthur to Minori Hayakari, the second best steeplechaser in Asia. She had no idea who Lydiard was. A few weeks later, I received an e-mail from her; “I showed that picture to my coach and he almost fell out of his chair!!” Apparently, now it’s framed and in his office. Lydiard principles underlie the training of most of the top Japanese runners through coaches like him. We eventually named the program “Running Wizard” appropriately after Arthur.
I am often asked a very fundamental question; “Why train Lydiard Way? My answer is always simple: “Because it works…”
PS: Take a look at the program yourself by visiting www.running-wizard.com
, register and click MyTraining. The page soon will be a pay-per-view (once we get the lock over it), so hurry!!