Grey is Okay
Does anaerobic running erode aerobic fitness?
Many elite runners swear by black and white training, so why wouldn't a 'cut-down' version of this work for the average weekend warrior? I think the answer lies in the theory that regular lactic acid production (over time) somehow erodes aerobic fitness. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence of this — one famous 13-page thread on Letsrun.com had many examples of runners who were successful because they didn't do anaerobic interval training. Bob Hodge (2:12 marathoner) said "Most folk's never approach the pinnacle of consistent running that they can handle, therefore the intervals become 'premature withdrawals' from the bank of mileage base they try to build." Other runners reported early season PBs after a winter of steady base-building, then becoming excited and introducing interval training (to further improve their speed), only to have performances paradoxically tail off over the racing season.
I think we hobby joggers need to remember that elite distance runners are typically doing a LOT of aerobic running. Those on mixed running programmes of the type popularised by Pat Clohessy and Chris Wardlaw are running upwards of 160 kilometres per week. Less than 5% of this mileage would be lactic acid producing anaerobic running. I have a theory that the large amount of aerobic running they do is sufficient support to ward off any erosion of aerobic fitness. A 'cut down' version of this mixed training would have me doing less than 3k of interval-type training each week. Even so, would the other 57k of aerobic running be sufficient support for this breathless pain? More to the point, if all my weekly running was aerobic, as it is now (with some very short sprints and drills), would my improved fitness produce faster racing? Distance races of 5k or more, after all, are mostly reliant on aerobic energy. I found another page that takes the view that traditional 'hard/easy' training is not the best method — Re-Thinking The Hard-Easy Myth, which promotes the idea that regular repeatable daily running is the best way to develop an athlete's oxygen uptake. Pretty much Maffetone heart-rate training, but running by feel. Heart-rate monitors would come in handy to stop these kids from turning some workouts into races! In the Letsrun thread I mentioned earlier, 'dwayne pipe' recalled seeing the Lasse Viren documentary 'Running is Your Life' (on Youtube in Finnish!), in which Viren ran much of his 200 miles per week "with a heart rate in the 120's, very very slow, and he would run progressively slower if his rate continued to rise." A predecessor of Maffetone?