Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lydiard's "Controversial" Training System

I was looking at some archived issues of Sports Illustrated the other day and boy,did it ever make me feel nostalgic for the "good old days" of long distance running. You know,the days when America's premier sports magazine regularly ran articles on distance runners from America and around the world.
With that said,I came across an article published on March 19,1962 which included an assemblage of notable coaches and athletes discussing a new and controversial marathon training system being taught by a New Zealand coach named Arthur Lydiard. Prompted by the success of the Lydiard trained athletes, and in particular Peter Snell,Sports Illustrated sought out the opinions of people like Herb Elliott,Percy Cerutty,Jim Elliott,Roger Bannister,Bill Bowerman and Franz Stampfl to name a few.It appeared that the mileage Lydiard was recommending was at the heart of the controversy. From reading the comments,I sensed that most of the responders didn't really know all the details of Lydiard's program. His first book had not yet been published so it would seem understandable that they weren't all that knowledgable about it. I got a good laugh when Percy said: "Lydiard is using the same theory as my own." A classic Cerutty comment if there ever was one.
What's follows from 1962 is Lydiard's description of the essence of his "marathon training system".Keeping with the recent theme of mileage, Arthur expresses so well the program he came to develop and refine.
He said: "My training system is not the super-human thing it's made out to be.....My system is as simple as it is effective: build up your endurance through marathon training.
In theory,I am trying to develop my runners until they are in a tireless state. In practice, this means I am trying to give them sufficient stamina to maintain their natural speed over whatever distance they are running. Stamina is the key to the whole thing,because you can take speed for granted.No? Look here. Everybody thinks a four-minute mile is terrific,but it is only four one-minute quarter miles
How do you give them the necessary stamina? By making them run and run and run some more,until they don't even think in terms of miles. There is no psychological magic and no pain barrier to be broken through. It is merely a process of long gradual conditioning."
"It is merely a process of long gradual conditioning," that's it in a nutshell,no complicated formulas,just the recognition that increasing work, and harder work, must be preceded by the kind of training that prepares you to handle what comes next. It's all so logical.

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