Friday, November 10, 2006

Listen Up- Words from the Coach

My last post and the comments it generated has brought the "Mystery Coach" out from behind the scenes for a post of his own. I feel greatly indebted to this man for all the help and direction he has given me during this training cycle, and for the wisdom he has shared with me regarding Arthur Lydiard's training. I feel honored that he asked to address this topic on my blog, and I now yield the floor. Comments and discussion on this are encouraged and welcome.

First I'd like to thank Mike for letting steal a bit of his blog space. The comments to "Different Strokes" which deals with the Greg McMillan article on the "new" marathon training method caught my attention. The Running Times article and the comments show a need to explain Arthur's methods and how they relate to this "new" discovery.

First in regard to aspect of speed before stamina if you were to look at Arthur's original schedule as he used in New Zealand it looked like this:

12 weeks X-country schedule
6 weeks Road Racing (2 mile schedule)
10 weeks Marathon conditioning
6 weeks hills
10 weeks Track Schedule
4 - 6 weeks track racing
2- 4 weeks off training

Three fourths of the year has speed training or racing. If you look at the cycle going on year after year that speed is always before and after the relatively short conditioning phase. Everyone is always looking for what piece is the secret. The real secret was Arthur's ability to evaluate and balance the training with the correct amounts at the right time. He never was very far away from speed development and his runners were training to be racers not trainers.

Second, in regard to "marathon conditioning" and specific marathon training. Marathon conditioning is not "specific" marathon training. Arthur should have called it steady state conditioning because the name leads to confusion. Steady state conditioning is in Arthur's words "You develop the capacity to run and run and not get tired; you can go out and run it the next day". If you want to find your true steady state pick a course and run it every day for a month, same pace, same
direction. ( As a general guideline most runners can run about 10 seconds per mile slower than marathon pace for about 7 miles day after day although for beginners 2-3 miles may be the limit) If you run above your steady state you'll find out about 10 days into this test. Most runners are shocked at how weak their steady states are because they have been lulled into the mantra of "hard" "easy". Hard-easy has its place during the speed work phase.

Third, Arthur's hills are used for muscle fiber activation and serves the same purpose as you see in the Running Times article's speed block. Now, Daniels (using reps in his system), Rosa and McMillan have discovered what Arthur was teaching 40 years ago, first you activate the fibers then you condition them. Running hard hills for stamina is not what Arthur recommended during this stage.

When you get to the final training phase, this is where you use speed work and coordination work (very long runs and marathon paced runs) for specific marathon training. It only takes 6-8 weeks of this peak training to get in top marathon shape. Speed work during this stage is used to speed up your metabolism to improve the transfer of oxygen across the muscle fiber walls and the processing and buffering of waste products. Any type of fast running will do this. Run hard and lower the oxygen level inside the muscle fiber (running hard will lower it to less than 2% where as steady state running brings it only down to 50% or so) then let the muscle recover. Most runners jump into this phase too quickly and overwhelm the muscle fiber before the metabolism has a chance to speed up. It is this speeding up of the metabolism that is worth 10-20 seconds per mile pace wise. Now you can see why this only needs to be done during the final phase.

This should make it a bit clearer on what you trying to achieve and why this "new" training is only a take on what Arthur's system had already incorporated.


Anonymous said...

Ok, now I'm completely confused. I've read "Running with Lydiard", and both the printed schedules as well as the training described in all the previous chapters start with the marathon conditioning, not with XC and road racing.

I realise that this "original schedule" covers the whole year, and is therefore cyclical. Still, I always got the impression that Lydiard training incorporates speedwork only for a small part of the schedule.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This is getting pretty theoretical for me. I better go for a run to figure it out...but what kind of run? How fast? Crap, I better go for a run to figure out what kind of run...aarrggg!

This may be the best arguement for why to get a coach...let him figure this out and then you can go out and enjoy the run.

Just the same, I do enjoy reading the different perspectives to see what I might want to integrate into my training. It's also why I'll never run a sub 3-hour marathon...that and genetics.

tb1 said...

All of the training angles just described sound plausible and I will be trying out the princlples. But I still need to run fast to find out how fast I am. I know that sounds corny but I'm probing my ability because I don't know what I'm capable of accomplishing. I need to find out where I end physically vs. mentally.

Eric said...

This is great information, and it all makes sense to me, but the trick is always in the application. Like chad mentioned, theory is the science, and coaching is the art.

I'm sorry that I don't really have any questions. I've read a lot of information from a number of sources, almost all of whom were deeply influenced by Lydiard, and I've gotten a certain level of understanding of the overall theory from each of them. In general, though, the application eludes me. Any idiot like me can follow a schedule in a book. Lydiard would say as much, he'd probably use the word 'fool'. But to get the best out of the athlete, the athlete or the coach has to internalize the theory and know intuitively what the training is doing on a daily basis. I'm not there yet, but hopefully I will continue to learn the artful application of the training theories and get some good results before my time has passed.

Thanks for the post, Mystery Coach. Maybe you should try your hand at a blog. Or better yet, a book!

Anonymous said...

OK, but didn't the coach says the opposite of what Mike said in his previous post? Mike said "That variation of Lydiard training is not for me", and Mystery Coach said "They've just discovered what Arthur was teaching 40 yeas ago".
I know Lydiard said you should never blindly follow the schedules, but apply the principles instead. But I'm confused about the principles now.

And that one: Most runners ... have been lulled into the mantra of "hard" "easy".
Does that mean you shouldn't do hard-easy outside the speedwork phase?

Anonymous said...

Thomas I was pointing out (at least trying to) that the Running Times article argument for classic speed work (6x400, 5x1200) is based on incorrect evaluation of exercise. While the classic speed work will activate muscle fibers (like Arthur's hill springing) it does so with a lot of oxygen debt and will undermine your ultimate potential. This breaks Arthur's first rule: "That schedules be designed so that ultimately the athlete's potential is fully developed"

My other point about "hard-easy" was to point out that runners tend to over do this during the conditioning phase and undermine their stamina development. Stamina has to do with the ability to come back day after day with a consistently high effort. It is not specifically related to racing well but sets the foundation for the harder training later ( where "hard-easy" is needed for good speed workouts)

Mark said...

1-Read the McMillan Running Times article
2-Read Mike's Mystery Coach Post
3-Read Comments

(1)-Are we saying the "Classic" method is Lydiard's method?

Popular magazines seem to have programs for first timers. There are alot ranging from 18-24 weeks without much consideration to the background of the runner.

(2)-3/4 of the year speed training or racing. This is where I missed out on my last build by trying to apply Lydiard I lost speed and became more LSD. It led to staleness, injury and illness. My theory was to build the miles slower as before I was prone to injury if I built miles and speed together.

Steady state was my primary when I PR'd. I am suprised at the comment as most runners do hard the easy. As it's easier, especially for a novice, to just go out and run the same course day after day at good effort. I consider myself a novice even though I have ran over ten marathons.

The key seems to be in the last 6-8 weeks. I have been reading Richard Nerurkar's Marathon Running and he writes about his 11 week and all schedules are listed as 12 weeks. Track preceded his 11 week.

(3) Does Arthur have a set of rules? I read one his books and don't recall his "first rule".

What amount of strength training and specific muscle development did Arthur write about or was it all running?

More about a year long periodization for two marathons would be interesting.

Lastly, thank you to Mike and his Mystery Coach for posting this as we all can learn from each other in a dynamic forum.

Anonymous said...

Mark,Your 3rd question: Arthur's five points: 1)That schedules be designed so that ultimately the athlete's potential is fully developed, 2)That stamina is developed first, 3)Then speed is developed, 4)The co-ordination of stamina and speed be attained 5)The schedule is timed accurately, so that peak form is reached on the desired competitive date.

Now to your other questions: 1) The classic method (in the times article) uses Arthur's steps Distance, Hills, Speed, Peak but interprets incorrectly what the steps are supposed to do. The "new" method is closer to what Arthur's steps are intended to do but the times article uses the wrong tools for the job ( Reps (6X400 etc)) instead of hill springing ( which develops speed (by activating fibers) with out incurring oxygen debt.

2)LSD training really doesn't build stamina effectively. If you go back and look at Mike's logs you see that he did a lot of running but was not developing his stamina. The first tine he had to do a "back to back" workout it revealed how weak his stamina was. Now his stamina is greatly improved. Arthur's insight into proper training was the key to him being the greatest coach yet everyone focus on the tools with out knowing why he used them ( and when to use them)

Mike said...

Thomas, I certainly have a more rudimentary understanding of physiology than the coach, and my argument against the order of the phases is more focused on incurring too much oxygen debt too early in the training cycle for the marathon, and how it can eventually drag down my overall conditioning before the big day. I haven't tried the Lydiard method on a yearly scale as the coach describes, which involves only one phase of "marathon conditioning", though that's the tentative plan for me after this marathon (two weeks of easy running then on to a "racing" schedule for the spring before starting over with conditioning this summer.

This brings up Mark's point, which I don't really have an answer for. Is it possible to peak a second time in a year for a second marathon without going back to conditioning?

Eric said...

A question about stamina. What builds stamina? Or maybe a better question, what allows recovery to happen more quickly, in order to be able to do back-to-back MP workouts, etc.?

Mike said...

I think trying to run daily at quicker paces (the coach pegged my "steady state max" at 6:45 so I tried to run between 6:30-7 minute pace) during the marathon conditioning phase develops stamina and endurance, while running the typical "hard/easy" mainly contributes to the latter. As for the back to back workouts, I think it's a chicken-egg thing. Doing them improves stamina so that you can eventually do them for longer durations and recover faster from them . . .which leads to more stamina.

I think they work to improve stamina by forcing you to activate and conditon a greater percentage of your muscle fibers for longer periods of time (the second day a percentage of fibers are "pre-fatigued", so additonal "under-utilized" fibers are recruited to finish the job). This is all based on my understanding of what the coach has emailed me (please feel free to correct me!).

Anonymous said...

Eric, Mike is correct. You have a certain percentage of muscle fiber that recovery easily. So if you do hard easy they have plenty of time to recover and all you do is rework them each work out. By doing back to backs ( or more consistent loads ( medium, medium, medium-hard) those fibers don't recover and then you're forced to recruit new fibers ( they will protest at first, just ask Mike) but after a while they take on stamina qualities ( which is good because they are the ones that you use at the end of a race)

Anonymous said...

After reading all the posts, articles and entries several times I think I’m slowly getting there. As I understand it, the key phrase is “first you activate the fibers then you condition them”. Hill springing does the activation, and, as the guys who wrote the running times article discovered, speed work does it too, but at a cost. Hmm. All of a sudden it seems to make sense.

Mike, didn’t Lydiard’s boys typically peak twice a year, once for the XC and once for the road racing season?

Eric said...

I can't wait to get to work on this. I was pretty excited by Mike's explanation because I have been able to do a significant portion of my long runs as well as a mid-week two hour run at what I would call a 'steady-state' pace. I considered this to be more along the lines of what Lydiard would call base training (as opposed to what I did last November through April, which was straight LSD).

Having understood the stamina concept, is base training an appropriate time to work on stamina by including back to back steady-state workouts? Or is it smarter to save that work for closer to the peak?

All this generates another question. Arthur suggested a base 'week' include a long run, a second longer run, a fartlek run, and a 3/4 pace run, which I take to mean an hour at MP plus 10 seconds. The other runs would be easy or recovery as needed. Question is, how do all of those elements come together, and what is the physiological goal of base training that includes, to a lot of Americans and to my prior experience, a hell of a lot of fast running?

Another long comment...sorry.

Mike said...

Just to muddy the waters further, Greg McMillan has added some more caveats to his article here. Not only does he pay homage to Lydiard, but he also acknowledges some of the same misconceptions about Lydiard's training that the coach here pointed out. He touches a bit on adding specific stamina workouts as well. I think having these additions in the original article would have made it a bit more complete.

Anonymous said...

Eric, When you look at Arthur's "steady state" (or base) schedule you'll see his best thoughts about load balancing. A fast 10 miler before a 20 miler is a real stamina workout. Once before I said "Workouts show what condition you are in, they don't make you into that condition" and this pertains to the stamina work outs, if you can come back day after day that shows you have great stamina, forcing yourself to do that ( which may tear you down) does not mean you have great stamina (maybe a high tolerance for pain but not stamina).

Stamina should be developed using levels below marathon pace ( you could develop a high level of stamina using repetitions but it would cut your development short).

Once Arthur had Barry Magee run the 22-mile Waitakere three days in a row for stamina. This is the type of stamina that should be sought. It is slower than marathon pace but not much less. Mike moved up to within 90% of his marathon pace, hard but on the efficient side of hard.

So to answer this:

"Having understood the stamina concept, is base training an appropriate time to work on stamina by including back to back steady-state workouts? Or is it smarter to save that work for closer to the peak?"

Yes, develop your stamina ( back to back or day after day) at just under marathon pace level but not above your recovery level during your base phase. This will give you the condition to to do the specific workouts down the line.

Eric said...

Okay, so just slower than MP. I would assume current MP, not goal MP?

So if my current MP is, say, 6:00 pace, during base I could (should?) be doing around 40% of my miles at about 6:30 pace (about 8% slower), and possibly putting these efforts back-to-back if recovery is evident? With the exception of back-to-back efforts, this is what I have done the last couple of weeks. I suspect it matches up nicely with theory, because it feels right.

I'll have more questions about the recruitment of muscle fibers tomorrow. That whole concept is fascinating to me. My whole understanding has been based on the WHOLE muscle undergoing changes in chemistry, capillary extension, mitochondria growth, etc. I'd never heard of some fibers activating and others just hanging out doing nothing.

Anonymous said...

Eric, Muscle fibers are recruited progressively as you run faster and faster until you get to your maximum speed. What Arthur figured out by trail and error was that you need to run a fast enough pace and long enough to condition all the fibers. As the earliest fibers fatigue the next set must be recruited to keep on pace. This next set will have good stamina (but not great like the first set) and they will last a shorter period of time. After that set fatigues you'll get to the really hard to recruit fibers who have hardly any stamina qualities and they will work only a short period of time. A lot of training programs just get to the first two sets of fibers ( tempo runs, hard-easy training, etc) and condition them highly ( give them great stamina) but never really get to that last set. It is that last set that is the most important for developing your potential. When you get to the last 3 miles of a marathon the runners who have best conditioned that last set will be the winners. It really doesn't matter if the first two sets aren't quite up to level of someone else in the race, if you can use your last set and they can't you'll win. Viren, Snell and the rest of Arthur's athletes showed what happens when that last set can be called on during a race.

Now you can get to that last set if you run long enough at a slow pace ( it might take 25-30 miles, but if you run at 90-98 percent of marathon pace the first two sets may be fatigued by 15 miles and then you start working that third set and by 18-20 miles they'll have gotten a good load to stimulate stamina development ( they have now discover ed that certain genes get turned on in these fibers and because of this you really don't know how good you can be until you train properly). One of the reasons the U.S. training programs fail is they waste all their training time on the first two sets ( I would say our athletes have the best first two sets in the world ( and possibly the worst third set)).

Hunter said...

Mystery Coach, the last comment is really interesting! So in order to activate and condition the third set of muscle fibers, how do we organize the training in the context of Arthur Lydiard's marathon conditioning phase, where he prescribed the alternative 1/4 - 1/2 effort?

Is the third set activated in the shorter but faster (1/2 effort) run? Then it is further conditioned in the longer but slower (1/4 effort) run?

Anonymous said...

One last quick post here to answer Hunter's question: To activate fibers there are two ways to do it, 1) Do very fast repetitions ( or hard on hills) 2)Fatigue sets one and two so that three has to start working to keep the pace. To condition them you must make them work and this is where Arthur and most coaches ( and physiologist) disagree. Arthur wants you to fatigue the fiber using fast and long distance running ( just slower than marathon pace ), the physiologist will say it can be done better and more efficiently with fast reps ( 5 X 1000 meters at 5K pace). Where the physiologist is short sighted ( and forget Arthur's first rule on training ( see a post above) is whatever they are testing for that week ( some aerobic enzyme) might be higher in sets one, two and three than in Arthur's method ( so they have proof they have a better method) that after a few cycles (years of conditioning) Arthur's method ( because of the volume) causes structural changes in that last set that gives superior stamina. At this point when you add the speed work ( 5 X 1000 etc) it gives superior results in racing. Arthur's method is not a quick fix but the best method for getting to your true potential. If you look over Mike's log you'll see a pattern of where he did a fast 7 one day then a long (at a good pace) or progressive (moderately long) run with additional fast running ( just slower than marathon pace). Look at Arthur's original workouts and they had a 3/4 effort 10 miler then a 1/4 effort 20 miler the next day. Before you think that this was hard then easy you have to know that 3/4 effort was about 20 second a mile slower than race pace and 1/4 effort was about 40 seconds slower than race pace, in other words hard and moderately hard. They did hard work but the other thing most runners forget is that they did "not" train this way year round. Where as the repetition trained runner would lose his enzyme changes quickly by easing back, the structural changes that Arthur's runners developed lasted year to year. Yes, it takes hard work but you build on it from year to year with out starting over again.

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