Thursday, April 10, 2008

endurance training

After reading through the 99 pages of the letsrun thread discussing Lydiard and Daniels, I realized I had not understood Lydiard's training methods.. another thing that struck me was how similar Mark Allen's protocol is to Lydiard's. (I see the thread is now up to 128 pages, oy, more homework).

The closest thing to a Lydiard training manual appears to be this document, from a lecture tour in 1999. Another reasonable facsimile of it seems to be in Bill Squire's book (coached Bill Rogers and Dick Beardsley among others).

A compare/contrast of Lydiard and Daniels is on page 12 of the thread, and see an outline of Mark's ideas.

Both systems use a repeated cycle of base/sharpening/specific training. Lydiard had a 6-month cycle allowing for two peaks a year, Mark uses the MAF test to determine when to shift the focus. The MAF test seems very close to Lydiards' "time trials", a test that gives the coach the metric and data to fine-tune training.

- Base: Lydiard liked 8-12 weeks, Mark mentions 4 months. Lydiard threw the watch away and asked his runners to run at a pace that left them 'pleasantly tired', but feeling able to do more. Mark gives an exact HR range based on Maffetone's numbers. The HR makes a lot of sense for new athletes who don't have a good sense of RPE, and as a reality check for experienced athletes: personally I think the old-fashioned LSD 'talk test' works fine too.
- sharpening: Lydiard has fairly detailed and specific sections, but he's on record as saying the actual anaerobic sessions don't matter much, as long as the required work is done. Typically about 3 weeks of running economy work, using hill springing and downhill running; followed by 4 weeks of 'anaerobic training', 2 to 4 sessions/week of the basic interval work we all know and love. Before reading the letsrun thread, I had not realized how much drilling/running-economy-specific training was done in the 'hill training' phase.
Mark is a lot less specific, but the principles are much the same:
"high end interval anaerobic training one or two days/week... just like the aerobic training, there is a limit to the benefit .. you will see your speed start to slow down again.. signal that it is time to switch back to aerobic.. Keep your interval sessions to around 15-30 minutes of hard high heart rate effort total."
- race conditioning: Lydiard uses weekly time trials (not race-effort) and short high-intensity intervals, reducing volume but not intensity over the last few weeks. Mark doesn't explicitly detail this stage.

The commonalities are a base of pure aerobic training, a training cycle that repeats the basics over a maximum 8-12 weeks of any one phase, and regular tests at known distances and efforts to measure the results of the training.

Never underestimate how much improvement you can get from consistent aerobic training. There was a great interview with Peter Snell at Runners' World, but it's vanished now. Luckily letsrun has preserved it (about a third of the way down the page).
"Most physiologists are trained on the idea of specificity, and simply can't understand that slow training makes you faster. "
Bear in mind that Dr. Snell is himself a physiologist.

My favorite quote from the letsrun thread:
"Eventually the Lydiard system vanishes, like the state was supposed to under Communism, and the runner just feels it. It is the way musicians do it. Music and running are really the same thing - performance and emotion."
Tom Derderian (himself a fine marathoner)
Another good Derderian quote: "the world is a conspiracy to keep you from training."