Thursday, August 03, 2017

What are the advantages of the Verheul Method?

I'm into my second week of 'de Verheul methode' of training and still excited about the prospect of faster race times. I thought I'd briefly summarise my early thoughts on the possible advantages of training this way. I've always been an admirer of Arthur Lydiard and his training methods, as well as the Lydiard influenced 'complex training' of Pat Clohessy (Rob de Castella's coach) and Chris Wardlaw (Steve Moneghetti). Personally I've experienced success following the ideas of Hadd, Maffetone and more recently the LSD teachings of Joe Henderson ("Long Slow Distance: The humane way to train"). Most of my lifetime PBs were set when I was being coached by Geoff Moore. The Verheul Method is the first time I've run using 'interval training' on 5 days of the week. The advantages as I see it are as follows:

1) Changes to the leg muscles and tendons. This is the key advantage. Klaas Lok (Verheul's champion athlete) suggested there should be a 'muscle elasticity meter' that told the runner to stop a continuous distance run the moment reactivity (spring off the ground) decreased. Running a large volume of 'relaxed' intervals promises to change the muscles, thereby improving muscle reactivity and running form.

2) It's not a hard day/easy day style of training. Every day is a repeatable 'Goldilocks' day — not too easy, not too hard, just right. I presume this is because maximum heart rates are low and the running is well below anaerobic threshold (no lactic acid). Intervals are totally aerobic, short and relaxed. There's no waiting two days before the next hard session. Verheul agreed with Hungarian coach Mihaly Iglói who believed in not training harder than one's ability to be recovered for similar training the next day.

3) The only 'hard' running is the weekly race. This is the one time speed is continuous and the heart rate is high. Racing is a good environment in which to run fast because warm-ups are thorough, you're running with like-minded friends and intent is serious. Besides, racing is fun!

4) Mileage is relatively low. Having manageable targets for weekly mileage lessens the likelihood of over-training and sickness. You're not pushing your body near the tipping point of what's possible with volume. Verheul didn't prescribe schedules but I estimate that Klaas Lok and Joost Borm ran around 100 kilometres (60 miles) per week, possibly less. I'll target a weekly volume of between 60 and 70 kilometres (60 is the point below which I think I'd lose aerobic fitness). Such low volume is not 'Lydiard' and wouldn't suit marathon racers but Verheul's protégés Lok and Borm were Dutch champions. I'll list their track PBs in the last paragraph of this post.

4) The training is fun and not daunting. Thus far I've been looking forward to every session with legs feeling recovered and ready to go each day (often not the case when I've been logging higher mileage). Moderately intense and fun training has hormonal advantages over high stress training. I enjoy the feeling of running fast! The 3k to 5k race pace of most intervals is a lot faster than recovery or LSD running. I have the opportunity to do a few sessions each week within organised 'handicap start' runs and my usual 7 minutes per km average pace is quick enough to keep up with slower runners. Verheul used gymnastics as part of the warm-up for daily training, which would be fun in a group setting. I'll be using running drills instead of gymnastics.

5) Improved running economy at 5k race pace. If I add up all the fast intervals, fast sections of a fartlek trail run (and the weekly race), I'll be running about 30 kilometres per week at race pace. I think this will be beneficial at a neuromuscular level. Already I can feel that my cadence is faster and time on stance is shorter. I feel lighter on my feet. The other 30 kilometres of my training week is made up of the walk/jog recoveries, shake-out treadmill jogs and easy warm-ups and warm-downs.

Bob wondered in a comment on my previous blog if there would be enough mileage in a Verheul programme to race half marathons. The Saturday winter fartlek run was from 1 hour 15 to 1 hour 45 minutes duration so I think extending this a little in the build-up to a half marathon would be sufficient to race well. It seems that Joost Borm was a 'miler' and had PBs of 3:38.27 for 1500m, 4:01.5 for the mile and 5:01.27 for 2000m (which stood as the Dutch record from 1982 to 2001). Klaas Lok's PBs were 2:21.8 for 1000m, 3:38.83 for 1500m, 5:03.9 for 2000m, 7:52.5 for 3000m, 13:36.1 for 5000m, 28:24.7 for 10,000m and 3:57.69 for the mile — all recorded between 1976 and 1981. I've no doubt that Lok would have run a good half marathon if that distance had been popular when he was racing.

Spectacular views at the Gungahlin Gallop 10k on Sunday


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Point 1. is very significant benefit. I am often sore after higher intensity training runs and feeling stiff (muscles). And I am very envious that you can train in a low (aerobic) heart rate zone, yet appear to get good race pace benefits. It seems to me that you are on track to smashing your 22.45 - 5K goal. Go for it Ewen. Nifty Nev.

9:38 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks for that comment Nev. I was the same re being sore and stiff after high intensity intervals. Staying aerobic is tricky as I myself naturally want to go hard when running intervals. If I run on flat ground I can do it fairly easily provided I keep the maximum interval distance at 300m (1:30 of running by time). With the 500m intervals I was at 5k race HR near the end so I should slow down a on those. It might help to hold back a lot during the acceleration phase (first 100 of a 300) and don't run faster than 5k race pace. It requires practise and a fair bit of discipline!

9:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is very interesting. While I believe that in general a distance runner requires a substantial mileage to fully develop several of the aspect of fitness required for distance running, (eg resilience of connective tissues; type 1 fibre aerobic capacity, fat burning capacity etc) it is probable that you have already developed those fairly well and mostly need only to maintain them with modest volume, while it evidence so far suggests that Verhuel’s the relatively low intensity intervals will help consolidate the neuromuscular coordination required for races form 3 K to 5K . I will watch with interest to see how it works for you

5:24 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Canute, thanks for your comment. I'm mostly excited about this type of training for the promised neuromuscular benefits while maintaining aerobic capacity. Already I can feel that my legs are 'happy' at 5k race pace. Interestingly, my heart rate is more than willing to venture higher when racing 5k so heart beats per kilometre at race pace is not as 'good' although my race times considering weather conditions (high winds of late) are the same. I'm still in the process of fine tuning the effort level of the fast sections to keep the heart rate from going too much over 140 (88% of maximum). I think keeping the training aerobic is the secret to being able to do a large volume of intervals at race pace. It must be said that slow interval training goes against my natural inclination to use anaerobic energy for the extra speed gains. Enthusiasm needs to be reined in quite a bit.

12:49 pm  
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