For several years I was a freshman cross-country coach at a high school in Buffalo,N.Y. I also trained the distance runners for track at that school. It was from my contact with other coaches that I came to understand what Arthur Lydiard meant when he criticized coaches for the way they trained their runners. The overwhelming majority of them believed in the, "you have to run fast to be fast" mentality.Consequently, workouts for their athletes were heavy on speedwork and hard runs.This "run fast to be fast" mentality comes primarily from an ignorance in regards to the physiology of children and young people. Lydiard correctly taught that young,developing runners can handle large amounts of aerobic running and training but heavy doses of anaerobic work is too stressful on their "highly sensitive nervous systems." In February, under the post entitled Lessons From Lydiard,pt.1, I wrote what I hope most readers recognize,that properly executed aerobic running is not just "junk miles" as some critics like to say. Lydiard,in his book, Running To the Top (Meyer and Meyer),repeatedly references the Kenyans as being Exhibit A in what happens when young runners have a background that includes years of aerobic running. Developing a high oxygen uptake through aerobic training is the key to running success. "Anaerobic training is what destroys young runners," he writes. There is a place for leg speed drills and hill work that are nowhere near as stressful as what most kids are subjected to in their school programs today Lydiard asserts.
Properly training our youth lays the groundwork for potential success in the future, but more importantly, it lays down the foundation for a lifetime of involvement in running.
May we have knowledgeable coaches who look at the "big picture" and don't sacrifice their athletes in a quest for momentary success.