Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hadd, Lydiard and Individualisation

In training for running, I'm prone to try different things. Just to see what happens. In July 2005, I tried running to and from school – like Eliud Kipchoge. It was a short experiment. Sometimes, at the end of a hard working day, I was too buggered to run home again. I didn't enjoy sleeping at school.

In December last year I wrote about running faster by improving my speed over 200 metres. My short speed was improving, but with the end of the track season, and snowy winds blowing in from the south, I've become fascinated once again by Arthur Lydiard. Running fast 150s and 200s on the icy grass at Calwell isn't much fun in the depth of a Canberra winter.

The training ideas of Nic Bideau have also intrigued me since reading his article in Modern Athlete and Coach. I mean, Craig Mottram is running pretty well these days, isn't he? For crying out loud – 8:03.50 for 2 miles! Mottram runs a Lydiard-like 170 to 180 kilometres per week, more or less year-round, using five different types of running sessions. His recovery runs are extremely easy (white), with other sessions being hard (black).

Just recently I came across a blog article by Steve Magness (4:01 for the mile in high school) called 'Catering to the Individual'. He talks about how a training system needs to suit an athlete's individual physiology. One part of individual physiology is the way fast, intermediate and slow twitch muscle fibres react to different training stimulus. This explains in part, how two athletes, such as Ralph Doubell and Peter Snell, can win Olympic Gold in the same event (800 metres), using two contrasting training systems. Doubell, coached by Franz Stampfl ran intervals every day of the week, while Snell, coached by Arthur Lydiard, used base training (100 miles per week) followed by hills, anaerobic training, then tapering.

I'm fascinated by Lydiard, after reading once again, the document authored by mysterious coach John Hadd. He explains how to build a Lydiard-style base with controlled running at various low heart-rate percentages ranging from 72% to 83% of maximum. These heart-rates are purported to maximise mitochondrial adaptation in slow twitch muscle fibres as well as improving capillary density, resulting in an improved lactate threshold. This is very easy paced running. His famous pupil Joe, after 19 weeks of such training (nothing anaerobic), ran a half marathon in 71:43. Closer to home, another Hadd pupil, Robert Song, recently ran 3:18:26 in the Gold Coast Marathon - his fastest time since turning fifty.

I don't have any current plans to run marathons, but I think this type of running could suit my physiology, and wombat-like gleefulness to run slow and long – especially during a bone-chilling Canberra winter. I've been doing it since early June. In due course, I'll find out, and let you know.


Blogger Stephen Lacey said...

May the trumpets blaze and angels peak over their little sunburst-rimmed clouds, I think someone has just had an epiphany! :-)

Yeah, I also think it is great to try different stuff, and as you know, I do not exactly reject AT intervals out of hand.

The one thing that I think tends to be overlooked when someone first comes to Hadd (and Lydiard) is that even though there is no anaerobic running during the longish build-up, many of the sessions are not exactly what you would call slow, and certainly not easy once you consider the distances. To get that mitochondrial recruitment, you need to place that aerobic load on the system for a pretty solid amount of time, and running at the upper aerobic heart range (what Hadd calls "work days") for 1 hour to 1:30 makes for a very satisfyingly fatiguing run -- it is not exactly just tootling around, especially once you start getting adaptation and running faster at that same heart rate. The weekly 2-3 hour long runs at the lower aerobic zone are also an exercise in mind over matter, but critical to mitochondrial and muscle fiber recruitment.

Ultimately, the greatest challenge with Hadd-like training for the likes of us old fellas is staying injury free on a diet of pretty high mileage. I have had success with mileage peaking at 120 km/week, but know that if my body could handle it and life allow it, I could probably achieve a 4:00/km marathon provided I could log those 140-160+ km weeks. But doing so presents an enormous challenge to mind and body.

12:49 pm  
Blogger Phil said...

I'm anxious to see if you can keep your HR down to the 72-83% range and see what results. I start with those same good intentions, but find my avg HR quickly creeping up to the high 80s. Good luck

3:50 pm  
Blogger miners said...

I'll be curious to see how you go with it too ewen. Low HR to keep for those sort of distances - obviously producing results for others though

5:14 pm  
Blogger Superflake said...

I'm wondering how the low HR will go when it spots Heartbreak Hill next month? My training program is a plan of one. I make it up and do whatever takes my fancy at the time. Plus any ideas thrown at me. Good luck with keeping the low HR Ewen.

5:42 pm  
Anonymous Ewen Tuthisortastoff said...

this new learning amazes me, sir ewenamere. explain to me again how sheep's bladders can be used to tell the difference between 71% and 72% heart rate?

would you ever run just point to point? like cranberra to geelong or something like that?

6:06 pm  
Blogger Lulu said...

Sounds like an interesting experiment and I hope you enjoy it!

7:19 pm  
Anonymous Em said...

Seems there are as many training theories as there are runners.

Finding the right one is all part of the fun I suppose :-)

7:49 pm  
Blogger Tuggeranong Don said...

Another fascinating post from you Ewen. Not sure if there is a right answer to the ever ending quest on the 'best' training program. It's what works for you and, probably more importantly, you having the confidence in a particular program that is the key.

Stephen Lacey makes a good point about those high mileage programs. They undoubtedly work for some, but for many others injury and staleness become real issues with programs of that nature.

7:57 pm  
Blogger Tesso said...

Very interesting. And timely for me as I've been considering a different approach for myself in the lead up to Melbourne.

So how exactly will you decide if its working for you? Do you have goal races where you can measure its effectiveness?

8:27 pm  
Blogger Runner Susan said...

Lydriad training intrigues me - I liked Hadd's article. I wish I wasn't so much of a social runner, I enjoy training with others - but there aren't too many people out there who want to run that much. Your wombat-like gleefulness should visit Dallas and train with me.

8:49 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks all (and others in advance) who have commented. Your thoughts are much appreciated... especially this time, Steve, although perhaps to describe it as an epiphany, is slightly colourful.

I think it will be a while before I'm doing longer runs regularly at 'upper aerobic range', although I guess the GC half was that.

Tess, I'll decide if it's working for me, if I'm running good times at 3k and 5k on the track over the summer.

Until then, I don't have particular goal races. Most races I want to run aerobically, so no more than 90% HR. C2S I might relent and go a bit harder. I intend to race the Melbourne Half seriously, so that will be interesting.

After another 6 weeks or so, I should be able to tell if it's working by comparing HR data with previous similar runs, or doing my 'slow race test' over 3000m.

Don, I can't see myself averaging much more than 110k per week. Oddly, I'm usually less prone to injury running higher mileage.

G'day Susan - will definitely run with you when I visit Dallas :)

9:01 pm  
Blogger iliketoast said...

I am not worthy ..... *see me, head down with arms outstretches ala Wayne and Garth to Alice Cooper*

Your blog could well be published in a running magazine and offer insights and knowledge well beyond their usual offerings

Sometimes a catch cry or simple statement falls short of the detailed explanation that you put to us here .... thank you

9:18 pm  
Blogger Stu said...

Yep agreed another great post with many interesting articles to read!

9:39 pm  
Blogger Scott said...

Yes Ewen, again thanks for the insight and for bringing this topic up. It seems to be on a lot of our minds of late.

I really can't speak with too much authority on this matter but from my experience I can summarize that few people over forty are really going to get marathon PBs unless they simple can get the mileage up over the 100km a week mark for a few months, at least, before their goal race.

I know a lot of Japanese masters that run sub 3hrs, guys from 40 to 65 years old, and the one thing that they all have in common is that they run 100 to 180kms weeks on a regular basis.

It is great to read up on and be knowledgeable on the different training methods but one should always keep ones feet on the ground, so to speak, and know that consistency is the key. If you can keep to anything, any reasonably sound program, for an extended length of time it will pay off in the long run, pun intended.

Sure change every year or so but giving up on a training method say after 18 weeks cause one didn't get the PB one wanted is not a good idea. All this chopping and changing is counter productive.

I particularly like the advice Speedygeoff gave a while back on his blog. Something to the effect of: If you want to run a PB you should run more kms than you did at any previous build up and be lighter than you have been at the start of your goal race attempt.

The individual approach while ideal is only going to work when build on the base of this kind of no bullshit method that Speedygeoff espouses.

The key question, as some here have already noted, is how one gets up to such mileage without breaking themselves (physically), their bank balance(opportunity cost, for the economists) and their head (from a rolling pin swung in anger from a neglected partner).

Let us know how it goes.

11:36 pm  
Blogger Jason said...

I enjoy the way you bring all the different training philosophies together, spin them around a bit and take out what seem to apply best to yourself. Like most reading, I'm very interested to see how you go over the winter training. Especially in Canberra, I've been complaining about the cold down here in Melbourne, I know it is cold in the capital,

10:32 am  
Anonymous Steve said...

Great article Ewen and it gives me comfort in that my training style fits into one of those training systems. Which one, I'm not sure.

10:46 am  
Blogger Stephen Lacey said...

Ewen, just picking up on something from your comment to my blog; I think here is probably the best place to answer:
"Regarding the 'work' days (83%)... my pace now at this HR (139) is only 5:35-5:45/km which feels 'firm' but not that hard. I'm looking forward to those, as it's a more natural pace for me than 6:00 + /km."

I might have this wrong, but I've noticed something in the way you talk about heart rate versus pace as if you take it as a static relationship. That is, at current fitness, HR-X = pace-Y. But one of the most important things that Hadd talks about is that it is endurance at a particular heart rate that counts, the ability of the body to keep working aerobically without accumulating lactate (or muscle fibers fatiguing). So X may equal Y at 20 minutes into a run, but at 40, 60 and 90 minutes into the run what will it equal (for the same heart rate)? phil's comment mentioned this "I start out with good intentions but find my heart rate creeping up into the high 80s". That's because he doesn't have enough aerobic endurance at that heart rate (probably). Hadd says that once you can run forever (so to speak) at the same pace at a certain heart rate, only then do you shift up to train at a higher heart rate. Though his program does have those two, upper and lower, aerobic zones that are worked on simultaneously (i.e within the same week).
What I'm getting at, is that one of the first things I reckon you have to do is find out for just how long 83% equals 5:35 (to 5:45). Repeat it at 75%, 70%...does X=Y for an hour and a half? Two hours? Three? Obviously temperature and humidity have a huge effect on what happens, so under your current conditions you can more or less remove them as a factor and attribute whatever you see purely to aerobic endurance. Not so easy for us right now (swelter , swelter)

Just some thoughts. I guess you are already pretty much on top of this, but perhaps for others I just thought it might bear further exposition.

Actually, you mention you have been following Hadd since early June ... any changes yet? Improved pace at a given heart rate and distance into a run?

By the way, I really liked that article you linked by Steve Magness. That's a can of worms isn't it!?

6:31 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Steve, for clearing that up.

What makes it difficult to get comparable HR data, is that I live where there aren't many flat places to run. The 400m track is okay (although it has a slight hill from the finish to the 200m start), but I wouldn't want to run more than 5k or so on the track.

To avoid what happens to Phil, I'm very disciplined about easing off the pace (walking hills if necessary) to keep the HR steady through the entire run.

The best test I've had recently was at the GC Half Marathon (a dead flat course). I sat on HR 147-150 the whole way (except the last 500m). Each 5k split got slower, which I guess shows a lack of endurance at that HR. I've averaged 74km/week for the past 5 weeks, so I want to build that up. I know I'm feeling very good at the end of long (18k) low HR runs and recovering very well the next day. Not sure if there's a measurable improvement though.

Regarding Steve Magness' article, it presents a big challenge to coaches, that's for sure... tailoring training to suit an individual's physiology. Probably explains why not every athlete in a particular 'one-system' coached group runs to their maximum potential.

Scott, thanks for your thoughtful (as always) comment. Personally, I'm not too concerned about achieving age PBs, so don't really care about losing consistency by trying different things. These days I just like to gain the experience of seeing what happens when I train in a particular way.

7:54 pm  
Blogger Bruce said...

Thanks Ewen , all good stuff. A bit technical for me at this stage but I probably should read up a bit more on the various training methods.

9:53 pm  
Blogger Bruce said...

Cheers but I think the Bledisloe will be staying put tonight. We cant let Gregan & Larkham go out on top, plus we have a few of our own playing their last NZ test too. Should be a good game though.

12:38 pm  
Anonymous Eblues said...

Forced to slow down due to a nagging, persistent knee injury, I began training under a seriously watered down Hadd based program (reduced mileage, fewer tempo days) in 2005. After a second season of more agressive Hadd based training (but still only 50-60mpw), my 5k time improved by 1:30, I ran a Boston qualifying marathon, AND, my knee problem has completely resolved. Needless to say I am sold.

Outside of the race results, I've noticed other signs of the effectiveness of this training. For one thing I rarely dread a workout, rather I'm pretty much always eager to get under way.

Another sign, and I think a rather significant one is, among my running peers, I've consistently out-raced folks who typically run their long runs 30-60 seconds per mile faster than I do.

If interested, you can read a short account of my first season at the following URL:

If that doesn't completely bore you, there's a link to an overly detailed account of my second season.

11:57 am  
Anonymous Eblues said...

I want to add also that I concur with Stephen Lacey's comments in the first post... Hadd's method is no patsy plan. Running for 45 to 60 minutes near one's LT is quite a workout... doing it routinely 2-3 times a week is downright challenging.

And those 25x200@5k pace sessions he throws in there beginning on the 9th week are plain TOUGH.

You won't feel like your goofing off on this program. And while the plan calls for 100+ mile weeks, I've found a slightly tempered version of it to be effective on a regemin of 50-65 mpw.

9:55 pm  
Blogger CJ said...

Running. in a Canberra winter (and particularly this Canberra winter) is no fun at all.
As for the Bush Capital events on Saturday - not this year. Running the Mt Taylor event on Sunday is going to be enough of a struggle! I admit it, I'm a wimp!

1:08 pm  
Blogger Eddie said...

That's all too much for my poor brain to take in. At the moment I just seem to be falling naturally into the long slow milage stuff. My body is coping with short nad fast.

8:08 pm  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

You could be the beginnings of a study of runners over 50 years of age who start running slower in training than they have in the previous thirty years.

Now if only we could find a group of over 50s who we can get to run faster in training, as a comparison...

10:41 pm  

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