Thursday, November 3, 2011

Arthur Lydiard on the Young American Runner

What follows is an excerpt from the excellent biography, Arthur Lydiard Master Coach. It was written by long time Lydiard collaborator Garth Gilmour and published in 2004. While reflecting on the American long distance running scene and some of the problems he perceived that it had, Lydiard had this to say: "A major trouble in America is a misunderstanding of the value and purpose of anaerobic training which they use excessively in both volume and intensity,even in high schools. The potential of the modern-day American middle and distance runners is huge,as they have proved before,but it is not being properly tapped. Potential Olympic distance and middle distance champions would emerge if coaches would concentrate more on aerobic conditioning and not burn their young runners out with excessive anaerobic training to try to gain quick results and points for their institutions." The Master doesn't mince words when he says this about those who improperly use anaerobic training while coaching their young athletes: "I consider those people to be the real menaces of the sport because they continually overlook the problems now known to be associated with the excessive use of anaerobic training. They are responsible for retarding the development of the best potential of the athletes they are handling." As a former coach of high school runners I saw first hand the truth of what Lydiard says. Although I would agree with him to a point that the motivation for coaches to overuse anaerobic training is a desire to get quick results, I believe the main reason for them doing so is based on an ignorance as to the proper way to train athletes. Too many of these people are clueless and actually believe that you have to run fast most of the time to race fast. Over and over again I heard and saw how coaches would give their runners a couple of weeks of "easy" distance running at the beginning of the season,then, would move into a program stressing mostly speed and hard workouts. This was pure folly because the majority of athletes were not anywhere close to being fit enough to begin such a regimen.Injuries and burnout are all too common among our young runners. Something else,Arthur correctly reminded us that young developing hearts, as well as the athlete's muscular,skeletal system, should not be subjected to excessive amounts of stressful anaerobic work,simply put,it's bad for their health to do so. This is just my opinion but in a perfect world every coach of a young athlete would be required to read at least one book by Lydiard on training.

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