Learning From the Greats — Keith Livingstone

For those who do not know Keith, he is the author of Healthy Intelligent Training, which puts a modern spin on Arthur Lydiard and his principles. It’s one of the best training manuals that I have ever read and would no doubt influence my training if I were coaching youth and high school runners.

The training overview he gives of the Lydiard system is phenomenal and easy to understand. He says, “The Lydiard system relies on methodically building the aerobic capacity and oxygen uptake of the boy by steady state endurance speed before leading into a resistance phase of hill exercises for several weeks, followed by time-trials and specific anaerobic glycolytic track training.”

Now, I know that sounds like a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo, but in layman’s terms…simply build the base, then go into hill training, and then and only then go into the hard anaerobic track training!!!

If you’ve followed my website, then you know this is something that I fully buy into as a coach and athlete. All of my athletes’ best performances, as well as my own best performances came from a training build up such as this one.

And, as Dr. Keith continues, I think it will make even more sense.

1. We train aerobic endurance first, in a long block of training, to ensure that the muscle fibre types used in our specific race distances get adequately ‘capillarised’. This will ensure that working muscle fibers get ample oxygen delivery very deep into their structure, and will also ensure that acidic by-products of very intense exercise in a later phase can be carried away rapidly into the general venous system.

2. This steady training period can be ‘livened up’ with days where training can exercise the completely opposite end of the muscle fibre type spectrum; the fastest-twitch fibers, the IIB. Yes, these fibers ARE ANAEROBIC, but DO NOT PRODUCE LACTIC ACID. We find it easiest to train this fast energy system and muscle fibre by very short, RELAXED sprints over 60 meters or less, with much longer easy recovery running in between. During the base period this can be mixed into an enjoyable fartlek session over undulating parkland. Faster sprinting is a skill that can be learnt by anyone. 

3. The final sharpening for competition will involve very hard training that mimics the stresses of flat-out racing. It is done safely when it is buffered with ample volumes of easy recovery exercise, before and after each tough session. Alactic leg speed drills continue as part of warm ups, and very easy aerobic work continues before and after each hard race specific workout. There is no real need to do more than two hard sessions a week for middle-distance athletes, because the body needs to recover and progress after each workout, and the body needs to clear acidic metabolites well away from trained muscles, back to the liver, to be re-badged and recirculated, and this is achieved very well by easy aerobic recovery work after a hard sessions, as well as the following day. 


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