Monday, October 17, 2005

What the Lydiard Method is...and isn't

On page 12 in Lydiard's "Running to the Top" Lydiard says he often tells young people, "Look, last year, you ran the best race of your career. Everything went right and you performed at your very best. Now, if you know why that happened and you put your training plan together properly to reproduce that peak performance again on the day of the first race you want to win this season, then I would say you know something about training. Until you can do that, you don't know a damn thing about it. You are just a good athlete who, one day, without realizing why it is happening, will run a good race."

I've had some good races, and some bad ones, same as almost everyone. Of my five marathons, I only feel like I executed two correctly, even though my preparations were fairly similar through four of them. Looking back over my logs, there are certainly clues and footprints, weeks when I commented on how bad I felt, or sometimes days when things really clicked. I can't tell you why in most cases, and I realize I'm that (not so) young person Lydiard is lecturing.

I thought when I started this that I would be doing great if I could just follow the numbers and times stated in the marathon schedule in "Running to the Top" or the Introduction to the Lydiard System link I posted on the right. That's what I'd done with Pete Pfitzinger's plan and others before it.

But a funny thing happened along the way. The person (Arthur Lydiard) who invented the plan, and those like Nobby Hashizume, who worked with Lydiard for 25 years, and still others who were either coached or infuenced by the plan started saying the same thing- the schedule is only a starting point, it's only numbers.

I've mentioned my reliance on numbers as indicators of my condition before, and I guess I when I first started with Lydiard I thought "If I put X amount of effort in, times Y in miles, plus Z in duration, it would equal a sub-2:40 marathon. I'm not the only one who has this misconception. In the famous Lydiard/Daniels Letsrun thread Nobby is asked about what is and isn't the Lydiard Method. His response:

What People Say the Lydiard Method Is:
* Running 100 miles a week
* Dividing the season into blocks
* Special hill training (Hill Circuit)
* Pogo-stick-jump-like sprint drills for distance runners
* Unique shoe-lacing system
* Actually, it is all of the above

What the Lydiard Method is NOT:
* Long Slow Distance (LSD) and no speed
* Quick and easy fix
* Magic formula
* Short-cut to the top
* One-thing-fits-all program – you have to understand the principle and apply to yourself
* “5 ways to break the world record in a month” – it does not exist!

What is the Lydiard Method?
* Perfect combination of Aerobic and Anaerobic training and to arrange all elements of training in a balanced way so you can peak on the day that requires.
* To develop sufficient stamina to maintain necessary speed over the racing distance.

The last two sentences say it all, and Nobby's description of what the Lydiard Method is not is just as telling. I'm certainly not on my way towards a degree in physiology, but I am starting to take a more active role in trying to figure out the "why's" and "how's" of the different phases of the Lydiard Method.

So it's not a plug-and -play program, but that's good news-especially to those who want to try the Lydiard Method but are scared off by the numbers. Lets face it, for many of us 100 mile weeks are not in the cards, either by desire or design. Lydiard, through his own trial-and-error found that figure optimal for his "boys", but some people do much more while others get by on much less. The Running Times article on Lorraine Moller and her coaching shows one of her athletes making remarkable strides on less mileage. So if you're thinking of trying the Lydiard Method, be prepared to do a little homework. Like most good things, the more you put into something, the more you get out of it.

Training: 22 miles, 2:30:32, 6:51 pace, very tough one today after too much yardwork yesterday. I need to have more respect for what the hill-work is taking out of me. Ran the first half at an ambitious 6:46 pace, so I faded pretty bad. Next time I'll start slower (and go back to 2 gels instead of 1).


Thomas Sørensen said...

My comment here turned out to be so long and I thought it might have general interest so I posted it as a post in my blog.

But Mike, you give me a lot to think about when I read your blog. So thank you for your efforts into interpreting Lydiard. The journey continues.

Scooter said...

Ding! He gets it! I'd say Lydiard training is a framework on which you build. It seems like Nobby is teaching you well. (I think it was me who made him aware of you.)

Mike said...

Thanks for the kind words (and the tagging), running has become a way of life for both of us it seems.

Scooter, thanks, I think your blog is very thought-provoking. I went from 213 down to 170 lbs, though it took me 7 years to get there.