Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The point that is often missed in the Lydiard System

Arthur was notice worldwide after Peter Snell's, Murray Halberg's and Barry Magee's performances at the 1960 Olympics. Before that point he spent a good part of 15 years developing his system using himself as the subject. What he learned from these years as much to do with the nervous system as it did with the cardio-respiratory system and muscular systems.

Arthur's earlier (pre 1964) talks and writings referenced the nervous system as much or more than the cardio-respiratory or muscular systems. With quotes like "I have found the marathon training not only increased efficiency of the cardio-respiratory system more quickly but also had a more beneficial effect on the nervous system", "We all know we have to be racing fit to win championships but if we were to race and do fast work continually , the strain would eventually wear down our condition so that we become jaded mentally and physically" and finally "Train don't strain"

One point I watch for as a coach is how well runners follow the "train don't strain" advice. During the Marathon conditioning phase I love to see post that say "I don't feel like I'm training", "My legs just floated along" and "Just drifted along for two hours". They all indicated that the mind is not using valuable willpower that will be needed during the speed phase. Running and recovery have become a habit with no though given to pushing things (like pace and recovery).

The nervous system only has to be gradually stressed over 3-6 weeks and left to recover for 2-4 to achieve a top performance. I see runners push too long with too many long runs or hard speed workouts and they end up as Arthur said "Leaving it on the training track".

So for the coming year make sure that during the Marathon training phase you use your willpower to roll out the door then switch to turning off the willpower and make that run an enjoyable experience that you'll want to visit again the next day.

Have a Happy and successful New Year.

Mystery Coach

Friday, February 04, 2011

Evaluating the Eval Run (part 2)

To summarize from the last post the eval run should be about 25 minutes long  at a pace about 30 beats lower than your peak heart rate.

One other aspect of the eval run should be recorded, the time it take the heart rate to drop about 30 beats (twenty-five to thirty beats). Heart rate recovery has two distinct phases, the first phase has a time constant of 70-90 seconds and a secondary phase with a time constant of about an hour. The first phase reading can give you an indication of effort and fatigue.

To see how this works go out on a comfortable run and stop after 15 minutes and see how long it takes your heart rate to drop 30 beats (or 25) then continue the run for another 15 minutes and take another reading, continue with a few more 15 minutes segments and readings.  At first your heart rate will take longer and longer to drop the 25-30 beats as you get fitter you’ll see that your heart rate will continue to drop at a rapid rate for a larger number of the 15 minute segments. You may not run a faster pace but your system becomes more efficient at staying in a steady state.

For real world example of how the eval run works during the a build, below are the results from Thomas'  who writes the  Diary of a Rubbish Marathon Runner blog.

Marathon build phase October 2010 – January 2011:

Average Heart Rate





Days from Start











Mile 1





Mile 2





Mile 3





Mile 4





Time to 130





As you can see Thomas’ first two miles changed very little (from an average of 6:48/mile to 6:46/mile) but his last two miles made a big improvement in his ability to maintain a steady state ( from 7:15/mile down to 6:51/mile, a 24 second per mile improvement). 

This is the type improvement in stamina that runner should look for during the Marathon conditioning phase. It will serve you well in your recovery from hard workouts.

The next post will cover the  methods of building speed without eroding the stamina that you have built.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Evaluating the Eval Run

One of the evaluation tools that has been part of the Lydiard system since the beginning has been the time trail. Arthur came to realize that the words “time trial” had runners thinking of an all out effort (racing with no reward) and spent a lot of lectures clarifying how they should be run and what should be accomplished by them.

In his book Running to the Top (Meyer & Meyer Verlag) he recommended that the best way to test for personal fitness levels was to run a measured distance an a regular basis, then to take after-run  pulse checks so you could chart the improvement of your recovery rate.

I break the eval runs into two different types; one test for steady state fitness the other test for the runners reaction to racing type  stresses. The focus of this post will be on the steady state fitness test.

Arthur recommended a run of 5 kilometers or a run of 15 minutes at the steady state then testing heart rate recovery times. In collecting data on runners over the years I have found that a run of about 25 minutes works very well. The first 10 minutes gives the systems time to stabilize and the next 15 minutes gives a good reading into the fitness of the runner.  The lactate processing system seems to kick in at a high level after 10 minutes then it stabilize.  So how fast should this eval run be? Arthur gave a number of examples of of how fast he thought the steady state was and it fits in with work that Farrell did, about .25 miles per hour slower than marathon pace (8 to 15 seconds slower than marathon pace). To make it easy just subtract 30 beats from your max heart rate (this is probably slower but for the test it works well).

Now we have a speed and a duration for the eval, the next post will explain how to evaluate it.