Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Planning a Stamina Build up with the Lydiard Method

Special thanks to everyone for all the responses to the last post by Mystery Coach (we'll have to have a contest to come up with a more "creative" name for him in hopes that he will reveal himself). Please keep the comments and discussion going, as I think it only adds to the general understanding of Arthur Lydiard's methodology.

The coach has kindly typed up the third in his series of posts on how to implement Arthur's training, and I think those of you who have questions on the correct training intensities/paces with regard to building stamina will find this very informative. My thanks to the coach for this post, now on with the show.

Planning a stamina build up:

There is one part of Arthur's teaching that most runners skip over in their rush to get to his 100 mile a week schedules. I going to quote it exactly here:

"Determining Your Capability

First you have to find your own basic capability. The best way to do this is run an out-and-back course for, say, 30 minutes. Run out for 15 minutes at a steady pace; then turn and run back again, trying to maintain that pace without forcing yourself. If it takes you 20 minutes to get back, it shows you've run the outward leg too fast for your condition If you're back inside 15 minutes without apparently increasing your effort, you haven't run fast enough to begin with. Next time, you should adjust your pace according to your insights about your condition and capability, so that you return in the same time as the outward journey. It's good discipline , and that's something you have acquire early because you're going to need a lot of it later." - Running The Lydiard Way

If you want to get the best out of your training you must take this first step. By not determining your capability most runners spend years "hypertraining" (an excellent Jack Daniels, PhD. term that describes overtraining) in hopes of pulling up their condition. If your log says "sore", "stiff", "need a day off" you're training over your capability.

Since most who read this blog are marathoners doing a good volume of running the next example is geared toward this level of running (beginners and those with less mileage could use 2 or 3 miles as a test). To find your base level; for the next 21-28 days run 7 miles a day over the same course as fast as you can, making sure that you can recover from the effort ( generally it will be about one minute per mile slower than your 5K pace or about 10-15 seconds per mile slower than marathon pace ).  This test works the most easily recruited fibers (1-5) and test their output efficiency and recovery ability. If you find yourself having to slow down or needing a day off you're going too hard (even a little bit too fast will show up 10-14 days into the test). You are zoning in on Arthur's "pleasantly tired". Heart rate monitors users will want note the relationship between this level of effort and their heart rates along the run.

It is from this point that you should start your build up, this is your base level. If you have done it correctly with good discipline and control you now know a workout load that you can recover from day to day. Now you could stay at this level for a long time just gradually speeding up the pace and the 1-5 fibers will get very efficient but we need to get to those fibers on the next levels and work them to give them better efficiency and recovery ability.

Let's say you find that you can run 7 miles every day at 6:20 pace. What would be an equivalent workout for 10 miles, 14 miles, 20 miles?  Here is a general rule that you can use: If you run 3% slower ( 6:20 + 380*.03 (11.4) = 6:31.4 pace ) you can run 1.5 times further ( 10.5 miles); 5% (19 seconds ( 6:39)) slower 2 times further (14 miles); and 8% slower ( 30.4 seconds ( 6:50.4 ) 3 times further (21 miles).

Just because they are equivalent does not mean that you have conditioned yourself to do them yet. As you go longer and longer you will fatigue the easier recruited fibers and require the next groups to come on line but you want to do it gradually so that the important long lasting changes can be absorbed by each fiber set. You could jump ahead and try to run that 21 miler at 6:50 pace right away but you would end up over whelming fibers 6-12 and set yourself back.

Next, where do you want to be at the end of your conditioning? Use the equivalents above and set your goals:

M 11 miles @ 6:50 pace (recovery day ( a full load would be 21 at this pace))
T 7 miles (with 2-3 mile evaluation run( easy before and after the faster run))
W 14 miles @ 6:39 pace
T 7 miles @ 6:30 pace (recovery day (a full load would be 10 at this pace))
F 13 miles @ 6:39 pace
S 7 miles @ 6:20 pace
S 20 miles @ 6:50 pace

You are going to start easier than your full load which you have discovered to be the seven miles @ 6:20 pace so working backwards from your goals the start point looks like this:

M 7 miles @ 6:50 pace
T 7 miles (with 2-3 mile evaluation run( easy before and after the faster run)
W 7 miles @ 6:39 pace
T 7 miles @ 6:30 pace
F 7 miles @ 6:39 pace
S 7 miles @ 6:20 pace
S 7 miles @ 6:50 pace

Now from this point by adding a mile every week to your long run and a mile every 2-3 weeks to the other buildup days you will get to the goal week after 14 weeks (see chart below).

Week #
1: 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7
2: 7, 7, 8, 7, 7, 7, 8
3: 7, 7, 8, 7, 8, 7, 9
4: 8, 7, 9, 7, 8, 7, 10
5: 8, 7, 9, 7, 9, 7, 11
6: 8, 7, 10, 7, 9, 7, 12
7: 9, 7, 10, 7, 10, 7, 13
8: 9, 7, 11, 7, 11, 7, 14
9: 9, 7, 11, 7, 11, 7, 15
10: 10, 7, 12, 7, 11, 7, 16
11: 10, 7, 12, 7, 12, 7, 17
12: 10, 7, 13, 7, 12, 7, 18
13: 11, 7, 13, 7, 13, 7, 19
14: 11, 7, 14, 7, 13, 7, 20

I know it seems like slow progress but it will bring the load gradually to the higher level fibers. One thing to remember a build up should not be 13 weeks of surviving every week. Too many runners read what some athlete did during a build up ( which usually comes from the final or best week) and use that for a model to be followed for all 13 weeks.

A couple of things to note: The faster Saturday run loads the 1-6 fibers which in turn makes the 7-12 fibers recruted earlier during the next day longer run. You can add easier running at any time (maybe 2-3 miles easy before the 7 milers and another couple after) but running the main part of the workout is the priority)

Training: 12 miles, 1:22:22, 6:52 pace


Mike said...

What immediately jumps out at me when looking at this post is the difference between the 14 week sample schedule presented by the coach and the often mentioned original Lydiard conditioning schedule of 12 weeks or more of-
Monday :10 miles at 1/2 effort
Tuesday:15 miles at1/4 effort
Wednesday:12 miles at 1/2 effort
Thursday:18 miles at 1/4 effort
Friday:10 miles at 3/4 effort
Saturday:22 miles at 1/4 effort
Sunday:15 miles at 1/4 effort

Arthur soon changed his schedules to a time-based formula though, which looks like this-
M. Long aerobic run 1 hr.
T. Long aerobic run 1 1/2 hrs.
W. Easy fartlek running, 1 hour, on hills
T. Repeat Tuesday's session
F. 1 hr. jogging
S. Long aerobic running, 2 hrs. or more
S. Repeat Tuesday's session

I think the first and second schedule are fairly similar for someone covering most of their miles around 6 minute pace or faster (like Arthur's boys), and after 18 months of trying to run Lydiard's way I'm more a fan of the second schedule (which has much in common with the coach's schedule in the post) given my average pace is closer to 7 minute miles. Yes I'm running fewer miles, but as the coach has mentioned many times it's more about "optimal" training and not "maximum" training.

The hardest part for me to trust about the gradual build up was the lack of longer runs early on, but the quote about how a stamina-based build "should not be 13 weeks of surviving every week" really does strike a chord. As the miles went up for me I started feeling better and better while running faster paces. And for mileage junkies, you can always add extra easy miles to reach the magic mileage number in your head.

Andrew said...

Mike, that jumped out at me as well. However, anything that suggests getting more from less is suspect. Having said that, I'll grant optimum over maximum any day - but didn't Lydiard say "if you can't do the mileage, slow down"? So what was he talking about? If you can't run the time or can't run the mileage?

Is there optimum at less than 100? I mean, if somebody just decides to run 100 miles per week "as fast as they can" (which is slowly for sure), won't something happen? Besides injury - ha ha! The body will adapt and if the runner can then transform his mileage into faster and more optimum training paces (such as the coach laid out), he will be on his way to some significant improvement.

I almost feel like we have it backwards. You can't 'progress' to Lydiard's run - by - time method until you're doing the full mileage schedule. If the time schedule doesn't produce 100 miles, then you won't be as aerobically fit as someone who is.

On the other hand, if you stop at 70, change your training to optimize whatever conditioning you do have at 70, you'll probably run faster than the poor soul that hasn't mastered 100 yet. But for how long? Once the 100 miler earns his wings, it's lights out for the low mileage runner.

This post threw me a little. I think because it advocates everything original in Lydiard - particular the paces, but it lacks the mileage and that concerns me - especially long term.

I almost want to say, why not just do the original schedule. Won't it produce the same thing? And then I think, the coach isn't really arguing against the original schedule as he is against the highly varied hard/easy routine. And that I agree with. But put those miles back in! - and to quote someone, "if you can't do the miles, then slow down".

Just some thoughts for discussion...

Eric said...

I'm missing the part where 'base training isn't long slow running, it's hard work!'. I read this all the time from guys that are out running sub-2:20 marathons. Lydiard himself even said it when defending his men and his methods.

Maybe what was not clearly described is that it took Lydiard's boys several years of comparatively long slow running before they became long fast runners. Would that be accurate?

I think Andrew is on to something in that if one does the volume (100mpw) at lower intensity as opposed to the time at optimum intensity, he is bound to recruit the full range of fibers despite training less than optimally.

Perhaps the volume approach is an even more gentle and complete way of getting to those hard to train fibers?

I think this is how I was able to run within 40 seconds of my 5k PR with less than six months of decent training. 1450+ miles in 15 weeks averaging 7:20 per mile sounds like a lot of long slow runs, and it was, but I ran a 16:12 in April off those four months of base with no speedwork.

Isn't optimal training just a way of saving time, and maybe wear and tear on the body? If a person tolerates the volume well, can more miles substitute for, in my case, a lack of knowledge? (i.e. don't know what optimum speeds are, can't figure it out anyway, just run far every day and hope for the best.)

Mike said...

Good observations from both Andrew and Eric, thanks guys. Andrew, I think if your daily pace is close to 7 minutes, the end of the 14 week schedule posted by the coach comes out about even on the effort scale of Lydiard's first schedule and even on the time of the second. How's that for splitting the difference? Do I have a future in politics? Certainly not everyone reading this is in that ballpark (7 min. miles), but I'd say it's probably the average. I'm still not completely sold on running fewer miles, but I think the argument the coach is making (this is for Eric's comment too) is that even at 100 miles a week you won't necessarily work all the fibers (as mentioned in the 26 vs. 18 mile long runs at slower vs. "optimal" paces in the previous post), rather you would be using the same group of slow twitch fibers over and over again. I think this schedule assumes the validity of that post and the fiber theory it presented (which I'm in agreement with given how training this way helped me for my last cycle). Also, I would think you could still certainly get in those 100 mile weeks, but again the extra miles would probably be most comfortable at easier paces.

Eric, I think running the daily paces extrapolated with the formula for someone shooting for 2:27 or better would be far from easy, with almost all of your miles between 6 and 6:20 pace. I'd call that "hard work", and just thinking about running those paces daily makes my legs hurt. Speaking of that, I definitely ended up with less acute soreness this cycle, possibly due to averaging 8-10 fewer miles a week for the whole cycle. I kind of liked that part, maybe I'm getting soft.

Anonymous said...

Since Eric has posted some numbers ( and is claiming math dysfunction ) I'll use him as an example. Taking his 16:12 5K (5:13 per mile) and the fact he runs 100 miles per week lets look at a peak balanced week using the numbers.

10 ( with 3 mile test @ 5:38)
15 6:31 per mile
12 6:22 per mile
18 6:31 per mile
10 6:13 per mile
22 6:43 per mile
15 6:43 per mile

Lets start with that 12 mile run @ 6:22 pace, it will use one half of the glycogen in your legs ( provided you had 100% recovery the day before) The 18 miler will get to the 75% empty mark ( and if you don't recover 100% even higher) The 10 while at a faster pace will only use about 40% and should allow for enough recovery for the 22 miler which will be almost a full depletion run ( getting to those 10-12 fibers which because of the stress of getting to them should be hit only once per week). As you can see we are cycling through the different levels of fibers. the 1-5 fibers get hit every day, each layer above that getting hit a few times per week with the 10-12 fibers getting hit once ( they are the poor in the recovery department and need the week to be ready).

Two things I was trying to point out in the post were runners try to get ahead of themselves by not getting fibers 1-5 to a high level first then moving on to each layer above that ( I might point out here that this relates to the discussion on speed before volume that Coach McMillian brought up). The second thing has to do with the speed of the runs. When you run slower than your energy level ( a term coined by Andrew Jones ultra marathoner) which is about 70-73% VO2max ( 90% marathon pace ) the rate that your liver can supply glucose actually prevents depletion of your fibers. Ultra marathoners usually bonk because their livers can not supply enough glucose to the brain, their fibers when tested still have glycogen in them when they stop. I've noticed Eric's comments in his training blog where he talks of feeling depleted ( it is probably not in his legs but his liver ). If you run too slowly you can deplete yourself with out getting to those 10-12 fibers.

I'm not arguing against 100 mile weeks or easy runs but for running fast enough in the proper loads at the proper times to condition all the fibers. Too many runners run too slowly and in too much volume before they are ready.

One other point which is a side point Eric's 16:12 off base training is right in line with what he should have been able to do without speedwork ( 10-20 seconds slower per mile ). A peaking program only speeds you up that much which is why the base conditioning is the critical foundation.

Evan said...

Great discussion.

A question mostly for anonymous, but others should chime in, is to what extent you can vary (slow down) the paces given less than ideal conditions, compared to race situations. This is particularly a factor for some of us in winter. Once you factor in footing, the weight of extra clothing, and whatever effect cold has by itself on running speed, your prescribed pace per mile might be 10-15 seconds too quick.

What about elevation and surface too? I always found it ironic (given where he was from) reading Lydiard that he held out the flat road run as a kind of ideal for just working on a good steady aerobic effort.

Eric said...

Great question, Evan. On any given day under 30 degrees, I carry about three extra pounds of dry gear at the start and five pounds of wet gear by the end of a run. Traction is very good right now, but typically it would be about like running on loose dirt.

Anonymous said...

Evan, By keeping a good log about your courses and the conditions you have a good idea on how to adjust the pace. Extra clothing weight slows you down about 2-3 seconds per mile per pound. Personally restrictive clothing slow me down more. The extra weight of wet shoes and socks will slow you down 4-5 seconds per mile per pound. Poor traction as Eric points out takes a bigger toll ( not only in pace ) but also in the increased injury potential so I tend to recommend easy recovery days with no thought to pace.

As with any schedule the pace ( and even the distance ) are sample loads and should only be used if you can recover from them ( so they will not take away from the next workout). The intent of that initial test ( 21-28 days the same ) is to find your recovery level and to base equivalent workouts off your recovery potential. Things like poor traction, wind all increase the load and should be adjusted for.

Mike said...

I want to mention two articles that I feel go along with what the coach is saying in the comment describing a peak load week for Eric. This piece by Deborah Schulman for Marathon and Beyond goes along with the quote by the coach, "When you run slower than your energy level ( a term coined by Andrew Jones ultra marathoner) which is about 70-73% VO2max ( 90% marathon pace ) the rate that your liver can supply glucose actually prevents depletion of your fibers." Schulman mentions how Arthur's boys mostly ran at levels just below their lactic threshold, and that how running below that level doesn't teach the body to utilize fat for fuel while sparing glycogen.

I feel this article goes along with the coach's next sentence: "Ultra marathoners usually bonk because their livers can not supply enough glucose to the brain, their fibers when tested still have glycogen in them when they stop." If you haven't read this article (RW online recently shuffled their website so my old link no longer works) it's definitely worth a read, especially if you're interested in the mind-body connection during the last 6 miles of a marathon.

Eric said...

Don't close the thread yet! I'm wondering if it, and assuming it does, make a difference how these runs are arranged. For example, Wednesdays I get an extra half hour to complete my run, so it would be ideal to have the 18 miler on that day, but that would put the 22 on Friday. I'd have to wake up at 2:15 or so to get out the door and be back by 5:30. Not happening.

Is there a way to arrange these things to still get the effect from consecutive days of stress, but work within varying schedules (not just mine).

Anonymous said...

Eric, Once you figure out the equivalent loads ( like the sample paces) you can arrange them in any order. I have found the back to back pattern to be very effective. If you look at Arthur's original schedule you'll see this pattern: short harder effort followed by long steady effort (10-15,12-18,10-22) Two of these back to back combos ( four days with the other three days shorter and steady ) give very good results. In your case I would start with a 10 miler in 62 minutes followed by a 15 miler at about 6:40 pace and progress over the next couple of months by reducing the pace of the 10 and extending the 15 miler @ 6:40 pace

Sample back to back progression
1 10@6:12+15@6:40, 10@6:12+15@6:40
2 10@6:10+15@6:40, 10@6:10+16@6:40
3 10@6:08+16@6:40, 10@6:08+17@6:40
4 10@6:06+16@6:40, 10@6:06+18@6:40
5 10@6:04+17@6:40, 10@6:04+19@6:40
6 10@6:02+17@6:40, 10@6:02+20@6:40

Two things are going on here you are working on the efficiency of the lower fibers with the fast 10 and the next day working on extending the functioning of fibers 6-12. The fast ten pre-fatigues the 1-5 fibers and makes the 6-12 come online sooner during the long run ( this is why I would start lower with a 15 because it will feel like a much longer run with 1-5 in a fatigued state)

The other days of the week can be shorter steady runs (with full recovery as the goal).

With the two back to backs at the core you can move them around during the week to fit your schedule.

Dutch runner said...

Mystery coach,

Would you mind to schare some wisdom on the function of (running the) Evaluation run (on a weekly basis)? What exactly will be evaluated?

Thanks for the knowledge you shared already.

Anonymous said...

The evaluation trial is usually a short run (3K-5K) run at a fast relaxed pace ( about 30 seconds per mile (20 seconds per kilometer) faster than your fastest pace during the week). It is not to see how fast you can run but to see how well you are recovering. Two things to check; 1) your breathing during the run, if it becomes ragged it means some of the lower fibers (1-6) may not be recovered so when the upper ones which have poorer efficiency take up the slack your breathing goes up. 2) The speed that your heart rate and breathing get back to normal after the run, as you become more fit the recovery will become quicker and quicker.

You should schedule an easier run if the evaluation run if either of those two indicate you have not recovered.

One other benefit ( which Tom Osler points out in his book ) is the faster pace keeps the legs in good bio-mechnical efficiency so that when you move on to the next phases the transition is easier.

Mike said...

I did a series of these "evaluations" during my last conditioning phase once a week for six out of the eight weeks. The first few found me feeling ragged and ready to quit after a mile, but during the last three the heart rate dropped back to normal very quickly and it actually became fun to have one "fast" day to look forward to. It was also a nice feeling to know I could crank out a few miles at 5:30 without difficulty at almost any point during the week.

Personally, I much preferred these trials over standard striders.

Dutch Runner said...

Thanks for the very clear answers, Mystery Coach & Mike. I will absolutely use this info when I will start my next base phase, before this I was very hooked up too the Hard-Easy approach, but the arguments here presented make me want to give the real Lydiard approach a try.

Keep up the good work.