Sunday, February 26, 2006

Lydiard Love-fest

Nobby Hashizume asked if I would write a testimonial about how training with the Lydiard method has changed my running. After I emailed this to him, I thought it pretty well summed up my thoughts on Arthur Lydiard. It kind of sums up the first six months of this blog as well.

Open letter to the Lydiard Foundation:

I have been a fairly competitive age group runner for the last three years, training as best as I thought I could by reading articles in running magazines as well as utilizing books by some contemporary coaches. I followed various training programs for distances from 5K to the marathon during this time, and did the requisite tempo runs, long runs, and traditional speedwork that most "club runners" do. While I seemed to improve a little from year to year, my results were never consistent, I was sometimes injured and I often found myself at the starting line of a race without a clue as to whether I would perform well or poorly. I felt there had to be a better way to train.

After a poor marathon in June of 2005, I decided to follow a different path. I had read about Arthur Lydiard and his coaching techniques in a few articles, but I finally began to understand just what the "Lydiard Method" of running was after reading transcripts of two lectures by the coach that were transcribed by Nobby Hashizume. Something in these texts spoke to me in a way no other training article or book had previously. Here was a systematic approach to running that advocated a long view rather than any quick-fix for becoming a better runner. Years of hard work, carefully scheduled and adapted for the individual, rather than a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach that seemed all too common in some simple 12 or 18 week programs.

I was hooked. I bought Arthur Lydiard's "Running to the Top" and read it from cover to cover. I scoured the Internet for more information and interviews with Lydiard and the athletes and coaches who had benefited from his wisdom over the years. With all this information in front of me, I began what I thought would be a lonely quest to find out just how good a runner I could be.

I followed Lydiard's six month program for marathon runners with a goal of running my best marathon. While the workouts were difficult, I began to understand the purpose for each run, and how all the different training elements worked together. Instead of trying to pack speedwork, tempo runs, long runs, strides and strength training into each week in a "some of everything" approach, I slowly learned the true value of periodization of workouts. Endurance and stamina came first, acting as the foundation for supporting all the other elements of training. Hill work came next, which led to increased strength and muscular endurance. Speed-work and track training followed, and I found myself running faster at an easier effort as the legs and mind began to work together in harmony. Finally all the elements I had worked on separately came together as I prepared myself to race with time-trials and race-simulation efforts, as well as shorter speed workouts with less recovery to teach the body to deal with the stresses of racing.

When the day finally came for my marathon, I ran eight minutes faster than my previous best, and met a goal I scarcely dreamed possible by breaking 2 hours and 40 minutes for the distance. What's more, during the six months of Lydiard training I also improved my personal bests for the 5K (from 17:09 to 16:48), the 10K (35:51 to 34:11), the 10 mile (57:43 to 56:09) and the half-marathon (1:15:25 to 1:12:49).

More important than the numbers is the feeling that I'm finally on the road to real and measurable improvement in my running, and that I'm finally able to understand how each workout contributes to that end. When I get to the starting line I know that I am ready. My training mileage and volume have increased to levels I never thought possible, and I feel I still have years of further improvement ahead of me.

I will continue training with the Lydiard method because I feel it is in harmony with the way I want to live my life. Training like this requires optimism. It assumes that hard work, intelligently applied over years, not weeks, will bring about athletic performances beyond my preconceived limitations. I believe that Lydiard training can get me as close as I can get to my ultimate potential as a runner.

1 comment:

Scooter said...

Mike,
I have to say that as a sales piece, that letter is superb. It contains the words that will insure that an awful lot of runners will be afraid of Lydiard - "hard work." On the other hand, those of us who understand running know that Arthur laid the foundation for virtually all modern coaches. While there may be good programs out there with tweaks to his "formula", and they may work, they are all built from his foundation. You did an excellent job of putting to paper the reasons to choose Lydiard. Thank you for doing the work (both on the roads and on paper/screen) that brings honor to both Arthur and you through your running and thoughts on it.