Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Lydiard Method

Many athletes struggle with their competitive running after they graduate from high school or college. Some athletes are burned out and take a break from the sport and have to get back into shape. Others lose all motivation to run once they are away from the team environment, and some simply do not know how to develop a training schedule.
Developing a training schedule is not always an easy thing to do. Many runners simply do not know much about why they do different workouts. They may not understand exactly when in their training program they are supposed to incorporate their long runs, tempo runs, or intervals workouts. This article's goal is to discuss one method of organizing your training. The method was developed by Arthur Lydiard. Arthur Lydiard is considered by most of the running community to be the best running coach of all time.

Marathon Conditioning (10 weeks)
According to the Lydiard method the first phase of your training for any endurance race should be Marathon Conditioning. The marathon conditioning phase should be 10 weeks in length. The goals of this phase are to improve your aerobic foundation and help prevent injuries. The improved functioning of your heart and lungs increases your aerobic foundation. Marathon Conditioning also strengthens connective tissues and ligaments which will help you prevent injuries.
To develop you training schedule for the marathon conditioning phase you should start with short runs on a consistent basis. Gradually you can lengthen the distance of your runs. To lengthen the distance of your runs start with lengthening one run a week. Then you can increase that number to two runs a week. When you plan your training for this phase make sure that you follow the hard/easy principle. This principle says that you should run one day hard and then the next one or two days easy before doing another hard day. During the marathon conditioning phase a longer mileage day is considered a hard day. It does not necessarily have to be run fast or hard. Here is an example of what a Marathon Conditioning phase build-up may look like. If you can run three miles everyday without becoming overly fatigued you could start lengthening your runs. After a few weeks your weekly workout might have changed from three miles everyday to five miles on Monday, three miles on Tuesday, five miles on Wednesday, three miles on Thursday and Friday, and 8 miles on Saturday. Sunday would be a rest day. That is just an example and may not be the best way to organize a schedule for you. If you noticed on Saturday the sample schedule included an eight mile run. During the marathon conditioning phase Lydiard suggests increasing the time of one run per week until that run reaches two hours in duration. If you are a beginner in running the two hour run may be increasing your total time running too quickly in the 10 week phase. If this is the case then you should pick a shorter duration for your long run.

Hill Resistance (4 weeks)
The Hill Resistance phase should be 4 weeks in length, and it serves as a transition phase. The goal of this phase is to transition your body from the slower running in the Marathon Phase to the faster running in the Track Training phase. The Hill Resistance phase will begin to introduce anaerobic exercise to you and it will add power and flexibility to your legs.
There are several different types of workouts that can be included into your schedule during this phase. The first one is steep hill running. While maintaining good running form you can run up a steep hill that is 300 to 800 meters in length. While doing this workout your legs should be lifted up until they are almost horizontal to the ground. The second workout is hill bounding. Find a hill with a moderate grade and a length of about 200 meters. Use bounding strides to climb the hill. You should feel like a deer jumping over a fence. A third workout is Sprinting Drills. Examples of Sprinting Drills are high knees, strides, bounding, and butt kicks. You should do one of these workouts, or a workout similar to this, 1-3 times per week during the Hill Resistance phase. The rest of the week should include easy running.

Track Training (4 weeks)
The track training phase is 4 weeks in length and is a phase in which you will do intervals and/or repetitions on the track that will help you with you goal race. The workouts you choose for this phase should focus on developing the systems you will need for your goal race. Some examples of these workouts might include 400 meter repeats, 800 meter repeats, 1-2 mile repeats, and ladder workouts. The phase is called track training, but the workouts do not have to be done on the track. Finding a flat section of road and doing intervals from telephone pole to telephone pole may be your desired way of training during this phase.
This is a very important phase in your training, but when doing track training caution must be used. This is the phase in which injuries are more likely to occur because of the increased intensity of the workouts. It is better to be under-trained in this phase as opposed to over-trained. Once your body begins to become over-trained you will have a hard time fighting off illnesses and avoiding injury. This is you bodies way of telling you to take it a little easier. One way to help prevent over-training is to make sure you follow the hard/easy principle that was discussed earlier.

Coordination (4 weeks)
The coordination phase is where you start to get all your systems ready for the goal race a few weeks down the road. The coordination phase is the time for you to start incorporating sprint drills and time trials into your training.
Running time trials allows your body to become familiar with the effort required during your goal race. One thing to remember about time trials is to not become discouraged with your time. Once you get to this phase of your training you should be in great shape. Many times you may set a personal record for an event during a time trial. Other times you may not run as fast as you think you are capable of. If this is the case for your time trial just remember that most people can not run as fast by themselves in a time trial as they can against competition in a race.
Sprint drills are also important to your goal race. These drills allow you to develop more leg turnover (speed) by developing muscle strength. These drills also improve your running form which improves your efficiency.

Freshening Up (1-2 weeks)
The freshening up phase (also know as a taper phase) is when everything should begin to come together. In this phase your training decreases and your body recovers from the hard work you have put in during the past 22 weeks. This is the time when you may not be able to sit still due to the extra energy your body has that you are not using due to the decreased training. Be cautious during this phase. This is not the time to go out and play a game of pick-up basketball to burn off some extra energy. This is also not the time to put in extra training because you are feeling energized. The length of the freshening up phase is usually 1-2 weeks, but it can depend on the athlete and the goal event. Freshening up for a marathon usually takes 3 weeks.

Down Time
Once you reach the end of the freshening up phase you have your goal race. If everything goes according to plan you should have ran one of the best races of your life. After this race comes a very well deserved period of your training. This is also a very important part of your training. While this period is not an actual named part of the Lydiard Method it is a part of almost all training methods. After your goal race you should have some down time. During this down time you should take a few weeks to relax and refresh yourself physically and mentally. These few weeks of relaxing should include jogging easily. Do not feel guilty if you miss a few days here or there during your down time. Be cautious not to miss too many days because you will begin to lose all the progress you made during the previous training cycle.
If you have not already done so now is the time to pick out your next goal race and begin the training cycle again, and build upon the progress you made. The Lydiard Method is a training cycle that can be followed over and over to build up for goal races. As with all training methods it takes time to improve. If you continue to follow the Lydiard Method over a long period you may set personal records in races that a few years ago you could only dream of. To quote the great coach Arthur Lydiard, "It is not the best athlete who wins; but the best prepared."

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