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Monday, March 31, 2008

Lorraine Moller talks about Athlete Conditioning based upon the Lydiard Method

When I was recently in New Zealand as a guest of the Lovelock/Davies Foundation, sponsored by Powerade, to speak of the work of The Lydiard Foundation I was both surprised and pleased. I had been concerned that New Zealand had lost the way and athletes had moved away from the Lydiard way of training, that it was seen as outdated and the public might not be interested.
There was an outstanding attendance at both lectures in Wanganui and Auckland. The packed audiences included many great and experienced coaches with a wealth of knowledge and experience in the subject that far exceeds mine - coaches such as Barry Magee, Arch Jelley, Chris Pilone, Gary Little and my co-presenter and long-time mentor, Dick Quax.
Almost every runner I knew trained 'Lydiard' when I was young. We ran cross country and road in the winter during our build-ups. We called people who went to the track and did speed work in the winter idiots. The strength building of the winter set us up for the track racing of the summer. The elders of our clubs explained that miles were like putting sand in your bucket and racing emptied the sand out again. (I would have preferred a 'money in the bank' analogy but the image of sand has stuck.)
New Zealand runners were at the top then. I grew up in the wake of the golden era of Peter Snell, Murray Halberg, John Davies, Marise Chamberlain, Barry Magee, and Mike Ryan. The trio Dick Quax, Rod Dixon and John Walker emulated their medal winning legacy. We women were soon to come into our own, in both parity of events and public and media recognition of accomplishment. All of us were coloured by the Lydiard brush. I was coached by John Davies, Ron Daws, and Dick Quax, all Lydiard aficionados.
Lydiardism had its own lore and lingo: we didn't periodise, we pyramidised; we didn't have heart-rate monitors, we gauged by effort; and our coaches were always mindful of how much sand was in our buckets. The Lydiard method was not a theoretical construct borne of lab formulae but a work in progress over the lifetime of Arthur (and others), trialed and tested on thousands if not millions of runners. What worked stuck to become an impressively sound and successful methodology, applicable to all endurance events in all sports over more than a few minutes in duration.
Why is Lydiardism so successful? Because it is a pyramid, solid from the ground up to its peak, it shape defined by the principles it embodies.
These principles are:
1. Maximum Aerobic Efficiency. The body is an oxygen dependant machine for movement. The better we are at utilizing oxygen, the faster and longer we can move at any degree of intensity. The bigger the base of the pyramid the higher the peak.
2. Progressive Development of Energy Transport Systems. Aerobic development precedes anaerobic development. The ascent up the pyramid is a movement from endurance to strength to speed, each stage building on and supporting the next stage.
3. Response Regulation. This is a fancy way of saying that everyone is different and each individual needs to keep an eye on their bucket and adjust their training so that they arrive at the peak of their pyramid with it filled to maximum.
4. Peaking. The pyramid focuses the efforts both physically and mentally so that the chances of performing well on the day that counts are greatest.
There are many such fine coaches scattered throughout New Zealand, coaches who long ago embraced Lydiard in principle and now carry a wealth of expertise. These are New Zealand's best asset for sport and I believe that support of these people at administrative level to teach and inspire our next generation of coaches and athletes is our best bet for a new golden era. Coaches are so often overlooked, especially in a sport that has become professional. As bucket-fillers they too need their buckets filled.
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