Run to the Top — In Search of a System — A Jigsaw

Coaching distance-runners is like assembling a jigsaw. All coaches know the different methods of training — fartlek, long steady, striding, sharpening, repetition, sprinting – they all have the parts of the puzzle, but they don’t know how to put them together correctly, mainly through lack of a practical knowledge of the event. Coaching is more than a science. It is an art, bringing the athlete right on the relevant day. And this can only be done by planned schedule training.

Lydiard said this in Chapter Two of his book, titled, In Search of a System. He explains that he started by running three times a week and experimented on himself until he found that 100 miles per week was the answer. He found that as he trained for the marathon distance that his track times improved.

I particularly like this section of the chapter…

This discovery didn’t come easily or entirely accidentally. I had started with a semi-schedule, a prototype combining distance with speed work. I quickly discovered that I lacked the necessary condition and that this lack made the speed work useless.

Let me repeat — I quickly discovered that I lacked the necessary condition and that this lack made the speed work useless.

I think sometimes, in our search for making this sport complicated, we miss this simple gem…we lack the necessary condition which makes the speed work useless.

BUT…it wasn’t just about building stamina…it was about bringing the athlete to his peak just when he wanted to reach it. And Lydiard was determined to get this perfect.

He says here…I was so determined to find just what the human body would stand without actually cracking that I frequently exhausted myself completely and had to walk the last few miles painfully home.

As he continued to search for the perfect peak he says, “In fact, whatever new point I established involved a rearrangement and adjustment of my schedule, which then had to be tested again and, quite often, adjusted again and tested yet another time.”

So, why do I even focus on this chapter? Simple, Lydiard exhausted himself to PERFECT the system. And it shows that it was a continual process to PERFECT the system.

“Coaching is more than a science. It is an art, bringing the athlete right on the relevant day. And this can only be done by planned schedule training.”


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