Monday, November 16, 2009

And Arthur Lydiard said "Run"

Arthur Lydiard is responsible for two huge breakthroughs in athletics. As with many of my posts this begins with some history. Go back to 1940s or early 1950s New Zealand. An out of shape factory worker goes on a five mile run with a coworker. He is wheezing and having a tough time of it. After this experience this man decides that he is not in shape and he wants to get in better shape. He takes up running because it is very accessible, cheap and effective. He begins to run more and experiments with how to get better. Everything from running fast but very few miles to running over 200 miles a week. Finally he comes up with the basics of his first theory. A theory built on a huge aerobic base. He says to run a lot of miles at just below your aerobic threshold and then as many miles as you can at an easy pace and do this for 3-8+ months. Alternate the number of miles of your aerobic run every day running longer and a little slower three days a week and shorter and faster four days a week. For elite runners this is about 100 miles a week at close to aerobic threshold pace and 50+ miles at an easy pace. You can also do strides and hill work to maintain some fast turnover but the key is lots of miles.

What exactly is your aerobic threshold? Definitively answer that question and you can publish a book, make money, and coach the rest of your life. I would say that aerobic threshold is usually slower than marathon pace. Perhaps it would be better to say that it is like four hour race pace. That may be your marathon pace but for competitive runners it is slower than marathon pace. It is supposed to be a little faster than easy. So that you breathe slightly harder but could continue at that pace a long time.

His second breakthrough was experimenting on out of shape old golfers. He had them run 15 minutes three times a week and all of their health improved. He called it jogging. In the past either you were a runner or you weren't. Now you didn't have to be a runner or a couch potato, you could be a jogger complete with 5k race t-shirts and sore muscles just like a real runner without the pressure to run every day and do well in races. As far as inventing sports go this had to be the greatest invention yet.

I have two of his books: Running With Lydiard and Running to the Top. The first is more of a general overview of how to run with the goal of racing faster. The second is more specific to being a really good runner not just running faster and it was 12 more pages and is three dollars less. I can't really recommend one over the other because honestly they are probably 85% exactly the same. Reading any of Lydiard's books is a perfect introduction to running and a read that no runner should skip. Many of his theories are still in use today by many of the top coaches. In fact the performance booms in Japan, Finland, Kenya, and other places can be traced back to Lydiard teaching coaches in those countries his basic principles.

Wether you run 15 minutes three times a week or 15 hours a week over 13 runs and play golf or run marathons you can stand to learn something from this coach of coaches.


  1. I think that it's interesting that you distinguish between joggers and "real" runners. I don't disagree with you that there is a difference, but it is worth pointing out that that difference is not very well defined or agreed upon

  2. I didn't intend to single anybody out because if it wasn't for jogging I would never have gotten into running. I totally agree that there is no fine line but there is a difference between people who run six or seven days a week 47 weeks a year, continually pushing themselves to race as fast a possible and people that like to run here and there and stay in shape. It's like softball leagues versus the major leagues or touch football versus the NFL. I feel that perhaps 50-60 years ago and farther back people didn't run for fun. Some ran to win or out of necessity if they didn't have other means of transportation. Our mostly sedentary society has created this great pastime that is easily accessible and quite inexpensive.

    I was reading about the difference between running and jogging last week and it turns out that running is having a point in the stride when both feet are off the ground. In walking one foot is always on the ground. Jogging is a word that was invented to extend the market of running to a wider audience. Mission accomplished.


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