Monday, September 24, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Dear Sir,

Arthur Lydiard uses the terms; 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 efforts when talking about the pace to run at in base training. If using a heart monitor would I be right to use 65-70% for 1/4 effort 70-75% for 1/2 effort and 80-85% for 3/4 effort?

I am into my 3rd week of Lydiard base training, I have been running my 1-1/2 - 2 hour runs at 1/2 effort and my hour runs 1/4 effort, as I think this gives me a better work out on my long runs and I get more recovery on the 1 hour runs, do you think this is ok?


England UK

Rick, The efforts levels that Arthur used cause a lot of debate on how hard or fast they should be. One problem with using percent heart rates to set efforts they can be too dictating as shown by this runner's remarks:

Looking back over my logs, I can see that all I was really doing for almost 1500 miles was recovery runs. Almost all of my running was done at heart rates between 125-135. At first, staying in this range was the only way I could manage 100+ miles a week, and after a couple of weeks, it was all I could manage without getting really tired. Pushing up into the low 140s was actually difficult, and required the kind of recovery usually reserved for a late season, high-volume interval session. If I had not had a heart rate monitor on, I would have slowed down, thinking I was pushing too hard.

At that stage of his development 140s would have been too hard and his body told him that. How well you recover from day to day is a better indicator of effort than trying to stick to a HR percentage. To take into account the volume, speed and ability to recover I use these definitions of Arthur's efforts:

1/4 effort - a workout that at the finish of it if you were asked to repeat it you could.

1/2 effort - a workout you could repeat the next day (and maybe the day after).

3/4 effort - a workout that could not be repeated the next day but could be repeated in two days.

My runners knew when I said a 1/4 effort run that when they came in I might just ask them to run it again (they never ran too hard on 1/4 effort days)and on half effort days that they might see the same workout the next day so they ran harder but within themselves ( the "Train don't strain" and "Don't steal from tomorrow's workout" rules).

By matching the above definitions to your HR you'll have a much better indicator of what efforts work best for you.

Dear Mystery Coach,

I have a question related to peaking for a particular event. I am training for a marathon at the end of October (six weeks to go) and I am contemplating starting structured speed work sessions this week (i.e. 4 weeks of track intervals & 20 min tempo runs @ 10k pace - one each a week). My only speed work to-date has been long tempo style runs generally between HM and M Pace lasting about 1 hour. I feel that I peaked too early for previous marathons as I had started my speed work too early. Can you offer some general advice on how to ensure you are at your best for race day and not the week/month before and perhaps some specific advice in relation to my circumstances.

Thanking you in advance for your considered opinion.

Grellan McGrath

Grellan, By timing your sharpest workouts in the 2 weeks before you begin your taper (24 days - 11 days from race day) you'll do well at peaking. During that 2 week period you should have 3 key workouts that work well for you. Look at your training log and see when you have run some of your best races, then look at the time frame 24-11 days before those races. These are the workouts that helped peak you best (They could be repetitions, or time trials or races). This two week period should be lower in overall stress so that you can run these workouts well and recover well from them. The 3-4 weeks before you get to that 2 week peak period you should work on volume hard workouts so that you can benefit from the sharper work.


Greg said...

Thanks for both of those explanations. They both really helped define some things that I really never understood.

Grellan said...

Thanks Mystery Coach. You confirmed what I had suspected in relation to peaking. Unfortunately I learned the hard way. I certainly had commenced speedwork too early previously and peaked within four weeks of starting.

Chad in the Arizona Desert said...

Great advice on both fronts. The 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 advice really makes more sense to me than HR zones ever did. Thanks!