Lydiard training, part 2

I must admit that I haven’t read any of Lydiard’s books. All my knowledge about him and his methods comes from the Internet. That’s why I regret even starting this, but since I already made an introduction post I feel like I have to finish what I started. So, all this is actually my interpretation of somebody else’s interpretation. If you know more about Lydiard and feel that I misunderstood something feel free to correct me. Also, I have a coach so I don’t actually follow Lydiard principles blindly, but I found out there’s a lot of similarities between my training program and those advised by Lydiard.

Lydiard use to divide season in several phases: marathon conditioning (base phase), hill resistance, anaerobic training, coordination training, freshening up phase, continuation of racing.

Marathon conditioning

First part of Lydiard periodization is called marathon conditioning. This phase should last at least 10 weeks. The goal of this phase is to improve your aerobic capacity, by running at aerobic speeds. Trough trial and error Lydiard found out that running around 100 miles per week in this period is optimal. This should be run at high aerobic speed, so it’s not actually long slow distance. Besides this he also advised his athletes to run as many as possible supplementary miles at low speed mainly to enhance recovery (they didn’t count that in weekly mileage). He also found out that he gained better results by varying his day to day training. It’s better to run 10 miles one day and 20 miles the next than to run 15 miles a day.

Training schedule for this part of the year could look something like this:

Monday 10 miles (15km) at 1/2 effort over undulating course
Tuesday 15 miles (25km) at 1/4 effort over reasonably flat
Wednesday 12 miles (20km) at 1/2 effort over hilly course
Thursday 18 miles (30km) at 1/4 effort over reasonably flat
Friday 10 miles (15km) at 3/4 effort over flat course
Saturday 22 miles (35km) at 1/4 effort over reasonably flat
Sunday 15 miles (25km) at 1/4 effort over any type terrain

My toughts

Lydiard obviously targeted this for experienced runners, so if you are a beginner this schedule is obviously not applicable. It would be wise to run for time instead of distance in the beginning. As you gain fitness you’ll become faster at aerobic speeds and it’ll be easier to hit your mileage goals. Running is high impact sport and by rushing things you could injure yourself. Start with volume that seems reasonable and build it up slowly. If you feel that you can’t recover well, back it off a bit.

Don’t be enslaved by numbers. There is no magic number of miles and it’s not much different if you run 99 miles vs 101 miles. Elite marathoners run up to 300 km per week. More is better, but only if you can tolerate that volume. If you can’t recover well more volume will actually slow you down and could lead into injuries and illness.

As you can see from the schedule above, Lydiard used fractions to describe training paces. I found this table on Alan Couzens blog which puts Lydiard effort levels in line with several other models.

Training intensity table (approximation)
Training intensity table (approximation)

As Lydiard said it’s ideal to run as many as possible miles at close to maximum aerobic effort. But what is maximum aerobic effort? There are several methods to approximate this. You could use your HR monitor and cap your heart rate in this period at around 20 beats below your lactate threshold heart rate. You could also use McMillan running calculator to determine your optimal training paces based on your recent results. Or, you can run by feel. It could be very useful later in the season, if you develop feel for various running intensities. In this phase your breathing should be in control, you shouldn’t get yourself out of breath. It’s better to run at higher intensity (but still aerobic) if you can recover properly and repeat the same training the next day. For this phase it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t take anything away from tomorrow’s workout.

What can we take out of this:

  • High training volume is crucial to running performance, but you should build that volume slowly over the years.
  • It’s better to run at close to maximal aerobic phase, but in the same time monitor your recovery. If you can’t recover well for the next day’s workout, back it off a bit.
  • Mix up your training, don’t run same workout every day.
  • Don’t bother to much with numbers (no. of miles, training pace…) and enjoy your training.

7 thoughts on “Lydiard training, part 2

  1. ja imam za diplomski lydiarda i imam tri njegove knjige pa ti posudim kad mi više ne budu trebale. ovu sezonu treniram po njegovim metodama i mogu ti reći iz prve ruke da stvar funkcionira savršeno. naravno, malo sam izmjenio program i prilagodio ga sebi.

  2. Hi Andrej, nice article. I love it!

    I have a couple questions I hope you could answer.
    1)Is lactate threshold HR approximately the same HR at 10K race pace?
    2)When you say “high aerobic speed”, is this the same as Daniel’s Marathon Pace, or Maffetone’s 180-Age formula?

    If I’m correct about #2, high aerobic speed seems too hard for me right now. I’m training for my first marathon, most of my runs are at 72-80% MHR, or “Steady Run” on your table. Do you think this is OK or should I train at High Aerobic speed already?


  3. Hi i2runner,

    1) Lactate threshold HR is the average HR that you could hold for 1 hour run. So, for someone whose PB over 10km is 60 minutes that would be the same pace. If you’re faster then your average HR over 10 km distance will be few beats above your LT.
    2) At base building part of the season I try to stay below 160 bpm for most of my runs. My LT is at 175 bpm, and max HR is 193 so that would be 83% of my max HR. That’s almost the same as your training zone. From time to time try to run closer to the upper limit (80% MHR). If you can recover well gradually increase the time spent at 80% MHR, if not back your pace off a bit.
    You’ll improve either way. Running slightly faster could give you slightly better improvement, but also increases the risk of injuries so be careful and monitor your recovery. Don’t try to push your pace on tired legs.

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