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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Essential Lydiard by Lorraine Moller

Essential Lydiard

Principles, not formulas, are the keys to successful training

There's a story told about Arthur Lydiard and his golden boys at the '64 Olympics in Tokyo. Down at the training track, with their rivals looking on, they ran an impressive interval session of 20 quarters. The next day one of these opponents, a talented interval-trained Canadian in his first Olympics, showed up at the track with his coach and proceeded to run the same session. Lydiard's boys cheered him on as he ran each interval faster than the last. When it was all done a reporter asked Lydiard what he thought of the kid's workout. "I think it was the last nail in his coffin," Lydiard replied.

"But your boys ran the same session yesterday."

"Yes, but my boys needed it."

Perfectly peaked, Lydiard's protege, Peter Snell, won two gold medals. His teammate, John Davies, won a bronze. The Canadian who had eclipsed the Kiwis' training run with his own failed to advance to the finals in his event -- as Lydiard had predicted.

One of my former coaches, Ron Daws, often quoted the above story to illustrate his axiom: "Good training and bad training look exactly the same on paper." Twenty quarters can bring one runner to his or her peak and bury another in a hole. Daws, adhering to Lydiard's philosophy, recognized that stand-alone workouts mean little; it is their contextual application to the advancement of the athlete's goal that matters. Training, then, is not a series of numbers that can be universally applied but is rather the art of combining measure, timing and sequence to the specific needs of the individual. Herein lies the brilliance of the coaching of Arthur Lydiard.

My first coach, John Davies, the same Lydiard protege who won bronze in Tokyo, called Arthur to ask him how to adapt the training for a promising 14-year-old girl. He didn't want to wreck me. Arthur advised him to build a base by increasing my mileage. I began on regular runs, soon reaching my target of 40 miles per week, which I continued for some months. There were never any hard and fast rules that are regularly attributed to Lydiard, such as the 100-miles-per-week mandate, but rather a careful consideration for my age, gender, ability, fitness and event. And that's how it was for the next 28 years of my career as an international athlete under the guidance of three consecutive Lydiard coaches: Davies, Ron Daws and Dick Quax. My schedules were never replicated in content; however, the principles that defined them as good Lydiard training (and outlined in this article) were unwavering.

Please go here for the entire Running Times article.

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