Saturday, March 10, 2012

Final Interviews, Arthur Lydiard

I hesitate to say that the following is the final interview Arthur did before he died because it seemed as if he was continuously doing interviews. With that said, it would not be a stretch to say it was one of his last ones. I've singled out portions of the interview that contain information I hope is unfamiliar to most readers. I'll put my "two cents" in here and there.
First off,Lydiard addresses the many benefits of cross-country training.
"Interviewer: How important is cross-country training and racing?
Arthur: Cross-country has always been a vital part of my training program. You can develop fine muscular endurance and suppleness in your stride by running cross-country. It also develops good running form and strengthens your muscles. When you engage yourself in road races,most of the time it is flat and fast because of the traction and it really puts lots of pressure by the heart. In other words,you are pushing yourself in a very anaerobic situation. On the other hand,in cross-country-and this I mean try cross-country races in Europe,not a flat gold course with firm footing in America,which is nothing more than a glorified road race.The pressure is put on your muscles because of hills and uneven and slippery footing, your overall general conditioning can be developed without taxing your body too much anaerobically. So cross-country training and racing is one of the best forms for general conditioning.
"Interviewer: Should cross-country be more of an emphasis for 800-1,500 guys?
Arthur: Runners for all distances can benefit from training for cross-country."
Lydiard is then asked about stretching and said that although he is not against it,he felt that it is often overemphasized by coaches and overdone by runners. Again, the benefits of cross-country are brought up.
Interviewer:How much stretching should a distance runner do?
Arthur: You should do some,particularly when you do faster training.However,if you do lots of hill running or cross-country running,your muscles will be stretched."
A few thoughts come to mind regarding the above. If you are one who desires peak conditioning and/or racing excellence,you are making a serious mistake if you exclude cross-country from your training regimen.The benefits are irrefutable. I have known many runners who won't do cross-country because they; #1. don't want to bother finding or travelling to the locale to do that type of training.#2.the uneven footing and terrain are uncomfortable when compared to the roads.
As far as stretching? Personally speaking,I agree with Lydiard, it's need and benefits are overrated.There was a time decades ago when stretching was considered essential to a runner's ability to continue running injury free.All types of stretching routines,yoga workouts,etc., were being promoted in the books and magazines. Sometime after, articles came out stating that runners were often doing themselves more harm than good by stretching improperly.The reality is, for most, when beginning a run, you can warm or stimulate the muscles by doing some walking, followed by a period of easy jogging after which you start your workout. You should finish a workout by jogging slowly, then walking and ending it with a few basic stretches(quad and calf) familiar to most every runner. If you talk to those in the running community whom I call the "old-timers", you will rarely find one that who has found it necessary to spend too much time stretching.
It was once believed,and may still be believed for that matter,that every serious marathoner only has a handful of excellent marathons "in him." Arthur responds to this school of thought.
"Interviewer:One elite marathoner said to me that he thinks there might only be about five good marathons in the body. Is there a limit an elite athlete should race at the marathon distance? Arthur:That's alot of rubbish. You can run more than that. That's the question of recovery. With so much money involved in marathon running today,some elite runners have run a marathon,picked up a check and moved on to the next marathon to get paid again without adequate recovery. That shortened their career. But, if you're careful about recovery,you can keep on running marathons and keep improving."
The above goes for us mere mortals too. I've known many runners who have started running road races less than two weeks after racing a marathon. As I've said before,just because your body may be able to tolerate doing so,doesn't mean you should or that it's good for you.
"Interviewer:What is the most important component to marathon training?
Arthur: The most important thing in running a marathon is muscular endurance.If you want to run a good marathon,you've got to do long runs.If you are a serious runner,it helps to go as far as 30 miles in preparation."
I guess the key words here would be,a seasoned runner, as well as a serious runner.It only makes sense that you'd have to have put in the time and the miles before going out for a 30 mile jaunt. Lydiard also advocated running for a certain amount of time as opposed to miles for novices and those who were gaining in experience. I call it time out on your feet. I have found that in preparing for a marathon,that by going out for a run interspersed with some walking breaks for a total of 4 hours has been very effective. I should add that previous to this I had done some 20+ mile runs.
I close with some words by the Master that sums up what is needed to train successfully:
"If you want to be a successful runner,you have to consider everything.You have to take a long view and train on all aspects of development(anaerobic,aerobic,etc.) through a systematic program. It's a lot of hard work for five,six or seven years. There's no secret formula. There's no shortcut to success."
Athletes who aspire to achieve running excellence recognize that hard work is a part of the process,however,for those of us who live for the run,that work is a labor of love.

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