Lydiard Interpreted

To know more about Arthur Lydiard, please check the following websites:

Lydiard Workout Program Interpreted by

John Molvar

Comments by Nobby Hashizume in red
Response by John Molvar in blue
Nobby Hashizume’s response to Molvar’s response in green

Color coded version from archived site:

I believe Lydiard’s methods are the ultimate way to train. However, Lydiard is not very good at explaining his methods in my opinion. You will often read about how a coach has studied Lydiard’s methods for years. That is because his books and his lectures do not clearly explain his system. You have to read several of them to get the full picture. I have read 4 of his books and 7 books about people who have studied and used his methods (I’m curious to know who)

Run to the Top – Lydiard 1962

Running the Lydiard Way – Lydiard 1978

Running with Lydiard – Lydiard 1984

Running to the Top – Lydiard 1995

No Bugles, No Drums – Snell 1965

A Clean Pair of Heels – Halberg 1963

Gold’s Aren’t Easy to Come By – Dick Taylor 1977

The Self Made Olympian – Daws 1977

This is a classic but if you can find “Running Your Best” by Daws, it’s even better

Mary Liquori’s Guide for the Elite Distance Runner – Liquori 1980

Run with the Best – Benson/Ray 1998

How to Coach Cross Country Successfully Joe Newton 1999

Running with the Buffalos – Lear 2000

I have also read at least 7 different summaries of various tour speeches by Lydiard.

for example, Jack Daniel might reflect the Lydiard method but I don’t think he follows it at all.

I have read Daniels and his books are not Lydiard at all. I think his approach is too cautious for someone who really wants to reach their full potential.

The closest I can think of, who have been successful, would be Ron Daws and Marty Liquori but that would conflict on hill phase).

Liquori’s book is the best.

I have pieced the principles all together in a clear, concise manner. I have eliminated the extraneous information such as how the system was developed, the science that later proved Lydiard’s methods and of course the endless sidetracks and tangents that Lydiard goes off on in his books. I have also examined the inconsistencies (Quite often it appears inconsistent but by reading between the lines, you can see the pattern and it does make sense),

If I took Lydiard’s first book Run to the Top in ’62 and compared it to his 1984 book Running with Lydiard, I could pick out scores of contradictions between the two books. 

For example the 1984 Lydiard says to do a 10000 meter time trial and a 5000 meter time trial one a week during the entire base building phase!!! (see page 126).  Another example, in the ’62 book Lydiard instructs middle distance men to practice starts! 

The term “time trial” can vary. To make matter even more complicated, time trial during the conditioning and time trial during the track training have totally different purpose. It is not what they are called but what purpose they serve.

My point being, I could write 20 pages on inconsistencies between Lydiard’s books.  But what would be the point of that?  Why criticize the guy whose overall system contributed more to distance running than every other man?  The reason I wrote the thesis is because Lydiard is the greatest.  I focused not on criticizing the tiny details that were inconsistent in his books, but focused on the big picture and reconciling the inconsistencies in the details. 

omissions and a few minor errors in his books and reconciled them based on the summation of his 4 books and the 7 books about people that used his methods. I wouldn’t have done this if I could pick just one of the 11 books and say that it is the best. They are all good books but they all have some minor and major flaws. Lydiard’s program is divided into 6 phases. I have omitted the 3 week Hill Phase which most people consider unnecessary (I would be very, very curious to see (1) who says hills are not necessary and (2) when and where Lydiard says if at all that hills are not as important as he did say in the original 60s;

Mark Wetmore, one of the most successful college coaches and Lydiard disciples does not advocate the Hill Phase. (see Running with the Buffalos).

Joe Newton, the most successful high school coach ever and Lydiard disciple does not use the Hill Phase.

I should read this one…

The Highly acclaimed Benson/Ray Run with the Best system who modeled their system after Lydiard do not use the Hill phase.

Lydiard himself reduced the Hill Phase from 6 weeks in his ’62 book to 5 weeks in ’78 to 4 weeks in ’84 to 3 weeks now.

There is ample evidence of people who have successfully used Lydiard’s methods without the hill phase.

Check his books! By virtue of him reducing the length of the phase every book and increasing the length of the base phase is ample evidence that Lydiard considers the hill phase less important than he did in the early 60s and the base phase even more important.

He always says Hill training can improve runners immensely; there’s no more rewarding way than training on the hills.  Ron Daws said that, if he would have to stay on one type of training for the entire year, he would pick Lydiard type hill training; Marty Liquori said that Lydiard type hill training is what prepares you to emerge as a butterfly).

True, but as I showed you several pages earlier in the same book he (Liquori) said the Hill Phase is probably the most controversial and also the most easily dispensed with

In fact in each successive book, Lydiard himself makes the phase shorter (He at one point says 6 weeks but he always kept it for four weeks; though he did reduce the frequency from 6 days a week to 3 based on his experience with Latin American runners he figured you can get reasonable result with 3-day-a-week hill training and that gives variety to weekly training). If you want to see the hill phase, check out Lydiard’s books.

Phase I – Accent to Peak Mileage

For this phase Lydiard recommends ascending to peak mileage fairly rapidly, about 9 weeks. This is contrary to what many others say. Others say you should go much more gradually and many in fact say you should take years. Lydiard says this is unnecessary and will greatly delay your development. Lydiard says you can and should take a sedentary office worker who has never done anything physical his whole life and get him up to 100 miles per week in 9 weeks(To my recollection, the closest I can remember is him saying that his original joggers went from nothing to 20 miles without stopping in 8 months. Besides, what about him suggesting achieving the time-base distance work first then cross country racing before you even think about running 100-mile-weeks?). 

In his ’62 book on page 145 under the chapter titled “The myth of Middle age”, he asks the question “Have you spent all your years sitting down at a clerical or physically-easy job?”

On the next page it says starting from nothing, “it would not be many weeks before he could run 10 miles, even if he could not run at all when he started.” So what is “not many weeks”? It is about 5 weeks. We are not talking months here. Two pages later he goes on to say “You can soon learn to run 20 miles if you want to.” Well, if it takes about 5 weeks to get to 10, then “soon” would be another 4-5 weeks. Add it up and you get 9 weeks. Lydiard did not say 9 weeks of course, but if you read what he says and piece it together it is about 9 weeks for a sedentary office worker to 20 mile runs.

On page 61 of his book, he talks about a new pupil and gives an example of an 800 guy Tony Blue who ran 5 miles a day, 5 days a week prior to starting Lydiard. He is getting him ready for the New Zealand cross country season. There is not months between the track season in NZ and the cross country season. Lydiard says “The semi-trained runner can achieve this mark (100 mile weeks) much faster but even for the beginner it need not take long.” “Need not take long”, I would say he is talking about 9 weeks.

In his ’84 book on page 30 he talks about the assent from zero to 100 mile weeks. He says “In only a few weeks, you’ll find that what seemed impossible is becoming progressively easier and more enjoyable.” My estimation that “only a few weeks” is about 9 weeks.

In No Bugles, No Drums, Snell says he went from 0 to 100 miles in 3 weeks, see page 25 of his book.

Very interesting observation and well-thought-out calculation. But you should not use Snell as an example here. He was hardly a sedentary individual even when he first started out with Lydiard and certainly not when he started out his build-up from some sort of break for whatever the reason.

Lydiard does caution that when you ascend rapidly that the tendons around the knees and in the front shins can get sore and you may have to ice them after every run for a few weeks until they grow stronger but there is no need to stop running. Lydiard says to also expect muscle soreness but don’t take days off, just run slower if you have to and the soreness will gradually subside. Lydiard says the key to being able to increase your mileage rapidly is to alternate longer runs with shorter runs. During the accent, Lydiard recommends you run very easily and slowly at all times. The main purpose is to get to peak mileage as soon as possible and to not even think about aerobic or tempo runs at this time. The table below can be used to ascend to peak mileage.

Lydiard Buildup Program to build to peak mileage from scratch in 9 weeks (I don’t recall Arthur suggesting any type of numbers to reach 100-mile-weeks. Instead, he always talks about jogging for 2 hours or more comfortably without stopping as a prerequisite to 100-mile-weeks. He has always maintained his position as; start out by jogging for 15 minutes without stopping, then increase the duration by alternating the length of the run until you can continuously run for an hour; then follow the time-base Lydiard schedule till you can comfortably run for 2-hour. And I recall, he has NEVER placed any type of time-line, such as 9 weeks, to this development)

He never did put a time line on it and that is a flaw in his books since people want to know how to go about it. I made it easier to understand. But, if you read on page 146 of his ’62 book, he gives some details on how to get the beginner started. He says to start with 5 minutes. Now 5 minutes is almost a mile. Guess where my schedule starts out with, a mile. He then says increase to 10 minutes then to 15 minutes. That would be about 2 miles. He then says to increase to a half hour and so on. A half hour is about 4 miles. Notice how my schedule shows an increase to 4 mile runs. On page 33 of his ’95 book he says to then run 30 minutes one day then 15 minutes the next two days. That is about 4 miles one day, then 2 miles each of the next two days. Notice how the schedule I laid out below seems to alternate longer runs with days of shorter runs. He then goes to say to raise up the longer runs first and then bring up the distance of the intermediate runs in between the long runs later. Notice how my schedule shows the long runs increasing rapidly and the intermediate runs increasing later.

Week Number Peak

SUEasy (plus 110s)01 (2)2 (4)4 (6)5 (8)6 10)7 (10)8 (10)10 (10)11 (10)
Wk total 31122344556667890100

Phase II – Peak Mileage Base Phase

Lydiard says all phases are absolutely essential to race at your best, but this is by far the most important phase. This is the phase that basically determines how you will run in a given year. In fact, Lydiard says that the day you finish this phase your performance level is already determined and fixed for that year. You still have complete the remaining phases to be able to race successfully and achieve that performance level, but there is nothing special you can do that will have any material effect at improving your performance for that year. This must be kept in mind at all times during this phase.

The purpose of this phase is to increase your aerobic threshold to the maximum extent possible. While ascending to peak mileage you have been doing all your runs easily and slowly. For the first few weeks at peak mileage you should run slowly. Then you should gradually increase the effort of your runs to a “strong aerobic effort”. What is a strong aerobic effort? This is the most critical and tricky part. From a science standpoint it is simple, you want to do all your runs at between 70-99% of the aerobic/anaerobic threshold. You never want to go slower than that or your progress will be delayed. You never want to cross that threshold because it will delay your overall development since scientific testing has proven aerobic exercise is19 times more efficient than anaerobic exercise. Two or three runs in a row that cross into the anaerobic range and you soon find you are breaking down and have to run much slower for a few day to recover and your forward progress is interrupted. Simple concept, but difficult to put to practice. Runners who master the art of training aerobically come the closest to reaching their full potential. Most high school runners either go too slow or too fast or a mixture of both. Most college runners don’t do high enough mileage and when they do, they run too fast. Most recreational road runners run too slow. Lydiard says to run aerobically, you should be “pleasantly tired” at the end of each run and always know you could have gone faster. Successful experienced runners have learned to “go by feel”. They know when they have increased the pace to the point where they have crossed the line and start to feel uncomfortable and they back off. Less experienced runners and runners who want to try to be more precise use heart monitors. Heart monitors are a good training aid but keep in mind they are not as accurate as one would assume. The reason is there are errors in determining resting heart rate, there are errors in determining maximum heat rate, the formula for determining the aerobic range is based on average people and you may not be average. All these errors can make your calculated “target range” to be somewhat inaccurate from your true target range. Monitors are an aid but not an end all solution (this is a good comment).

Lydiard says it is better to err on the slow side, but keep in mind it will take much longer to achieve the same results. So it is a tricky game to run as fast as possible without ever going anaerobic.

Once you master running aerobically, you want to keep the same level of effort throughout the base building phase. Consequently, your training paces will gradually quicken on average each week. It won’t be straight line improvement but it will be significant over time and the beauty of Lydiard’s program is the faster pace will be achieved with no extra effort on your part. If fact running at a strong aerobic effort as long as you don’t cross the threshold, becomes more and more enjoyable and addicting as you go onward and there is no danger of mental burnout. You will find your times dropping significantly over the weeks but don’t get caught up in the times too much such that they effect your level of effort. It is more important to concentrate on the level of effort and let the times take care of themselves. Don’t push into the anaerobic zone just because you think you should be running a particular pace. Lydiard says inevitably there will be some times during the base building phase in which you feel tired and/or sore. He says to slow down for a couple of days but don’t cut back on distance and never take a day off. After just a couple of slow days you will find your gains will be consolidated and within a week you will feel a new surge of freshness and improvement. When Peter Snell started the program, he could not complete his first attempts at the 22 mile long run and had to be picked up by Lydiard. His first completed run took over 3 hours. Without any additional effort he knocked off chunks of 5 to 10 minutes each week and eventually got down to sub 2:10.

What is peak mileage? Through years of ruthless experimentation on himself, Lydiard determined that approximately 100 miles per week is the ideal amount of miles of strong aerobic running per week to do. Less than that is not enough no matter how fast you run it. More than 100 miles a week at a strong aerobic effort will result in breakdown. Lydiard says if you have the time and inclination you should run more than 100 miles per week provided, 100 miles of it is at a strong aerobic effort, and any additional miles are run in a second daily run at a much slower pace and that it doesn’t take away from your main daily aerobic run.

As far as each individual is concerned, you have to decide what you want to do for peak mileage. Obviously you dont want to go over 100 aerobic miles per week. 100 is ideal, but do you have that much time and interest in running at this point to do that? Only you can decide that. You will have to pick the total miles per week you want to attempt this season and follow the chart below for that mileage.

Lydiard discovered that alternating longer runs at a slightly lower effort with shorter runs at a slightly harder effort will result in much faster improvement than running the same distance every day. He also found that running a once weekly long run significantly increases the rate of improvement. Additionally a once per week run just slightly below the threshold is essential for rapid improvement. It should be noted that all runs should still fall into the “strong aerobic effort” category. Lydiard discovered that running one longer run per day than two shorter runs results in quicker development. Therefore all your aerobic mileage should be run in one run per day. If you chose to run more than 100 miles per week, you can add an additional run on some days which will be done slower than the strong aerobic range.

Contrary to popular mantra, Lydiard does not recommend running on trails or grass. To ensure that your running is geared as much as possible to aerobic development and not muscular development, as much running as possible should be done on paved surfaces to get maximum traction. Put the pressure on the cardiac system not the leg muscles. It also makes sense for the same reason that the training routes should be flat as possible (Not necessarily; Lydiard always comments that, in order to achieve the best aerobic development within the given time, it’s best to run on the paved road, where traction is good, and over a flat course so neuromuscular breakdown won’t stop the duration of the long run. This does NOT mean his runners were always running on the flat road during the conditioning AT ALL! He always recommends that undulation is the best way to run, meaning that you can activate muscular endurance WHILE working on your aerobic development IF you run over undulating course. And his runners DID most of their long runs on the road, partly because it rains a lot during the winter in NZ. He was also fully aware, however, that, if their legs felt dead, its better to run on the trail or grassy area. In Peter Snell’s book he said that, in some occasions, when he’s starting out to build up mileage to reach 100-mile-weeks, he would run around the Auckland Domain, mainly on grass, twice a day. It is all relative and it all depends on what Lydiard was actually trying to get at, to make a point; not necessarily what they actually did).

Point taken. But, Lydiard does say to run on paved surfaces, not trails and he recommends his runners run of easy flat courses 5 of the 7 days of the week.

The base building phase should last as long as possible. Realistically no one would want to go longer than a year without racing! Most top flight athletes aim to peak once a year. Depending on when they start and getting in the rest of the program, this means this phase ideally should last 5 to 8 months (I’m curious for this one; I guess it could get overkill – Lydiard’s program always calls for 3-month build-up.

You are wrong. On page 41 of his ’95 book Running to the Top Lydiard states “You must do as much base aerobic running as you can. The minimum is 3 months. Four months is better, 5 is better still but anything less than 3 months is not enough.” In chapter 12 where the schedules are, Lydiard says to base build “As Long a Time as Possible”. What do you think that means? It means to do it as long as possible, not just 3-5 months. He points out that if time doesn’t permit, you do whatever you can, but it has to be at least 3 months long.

In Liquori’s book on the Lydiard system he says the base phase should last 6 months.

Is it better to do longer if time permits, or is it counterproductive to do it longer? I don’t think he ever says which is better or worse.

Lydiard says to base build “As Long a time as possible”.

If you are trying to peak more than once a year (which will result in 2 peaks, both lower than the one peak program) this phase is going to last 3-4 months. Lydiard scoffs at the American high school and college systems of trying to peak 3 times per year.

From the chart below pick the week that corresponds to the peak mileage you have chosen and follow that schedule.


SA1/4 Long1368111417202222
SU1/4 (plus 110s)01 (2)2 (4)4 (6)5 (8)6 (10)7 (10)8 (10)10 (10)11 (10)
Week total 31122344556667890100

(This chart doesn’t mean much at all because, if you pick to do the base-building at 3 or 11 miles a week, it really doesn’t make sense to do it at all as marathon conditioning. A real build-up should start perhaps somewhere around 45 to 78 range)

You are correct. However, over here in America, we have a whole generation of runners who think it is dangerous to run more than 40 miles per week. All I was providing was for the people who foolishly refuse to increase their mileage, a way to get the most out of it using Lydiard’s principles of alternating distances and efforts. I clearly stated that anything under 100 is not enough.


1/4 effort – easier, but still aerobic pace (not jogging), 65-70% of (Maximum minus resting heart rate). For example, with a resting of 55 and max of 195, it works out to 145 to 153 beats per minute. For one runner it could be approximately 7:25 to 7:50 per mile depending on how he feels and the conditions and if it is early in base building phase or late in the base building phase.

1/2 effort – run at a strong aerobic, but sub tempo pace, 70-75% of (Maximum minus resting heart rate). For example 153 to 160 beats per minute. For our example runner that could be 6:40 to 7:10 per mile depending on how he feels and the conditions and if it is early in base building phase or late in the base building phase.

3/4 effort  run at tempo pace/At Threshold (AT) pace, 75-85% of (Maximum minus resting heart rate). For example 160 to 174 beats per minute. For our example runner that could be 6:15 to 6:35 per mile depending on how he feels and the conditions and if it is early in base building phase or late in the base building phase.

100s – run at 70 to 90% effort. Take a full 3 minute walk between each one. It is important to not build up any lactic acid which is unlike most track workout intervals/repeats. These are strictly to work on basic speed and not lactic acid tolerance. Lactic acid tolerance will be developed in the later phases (This is true and a good recommendation, however, Lydiard himself was never keen on even including 100s during the build-up.

Not true! Lydiard instead included doing fartlek once a week during the build up in which pick-up of varying distances including 100s would be included. On page 55 of his ’84 book he describes Fartlek as “Stride out there, sprint there…”.

Liquori recommends 16 X 100 once per week during base building (see page 119 of his book)

Benson recommends 10 X 100 once per week during base building.

Baillie, who always had one eye on track events like 800m or a mile, did easy 200s during build-up and Snell now says that that’s the only thing he would do differently, but in his case, instead of 100s, somewhat longer but easier pace).

If you build up lactic acid it will retard your base building aerobic work which is of paramount importance in this phase. Start out doing the 100s at about 10K goal pace early in the base building phase and slowly build up to goal pace for the 400 by the end of the base building phase. Always run with the wind at your back and never run full out. Focus on good form and high knee lift and relaxation (good comment!).

Phase III – Anaerobic Development (4-5 weeks)

You may have developed your aerobic capacity to the maximum extent practicable but you still cannot race well without developing lactic acid tolerance. This requires interval/repetition work. Lydiard say this is essential to race well but this phase is far less important than the base building phase. Lydiard is amazed at the effort that coaches meticulously devote to coming up with complex and even esoteric interval workouts such as ascending ladders, descending ladders and even ascending and descending ladders in the same workout. All the while they have totally neglected the core base building phase. Lydiard says American high school and college coaches are the most notorious offenders. Lydiard says what you do for interval work is not important at all as long as you are doing it.

In this phase Lydiard recommends doing intervals/repetitions 2 or 3 times a week, speed work such as repeat 100s 1 or 2 times a week and one medium length easy distance run and one easy long run once a week. According to Lydiard you cannot continue aerobic development while simultaneously doing hard anaerobic work (This comment is misleading; what Lydiard always says it You cannot train hard and race well at the same time. 

It is not misleading and it is very important. I said you cannot “continue aerobic development”. Development means to get better or improve. You can only at best “maintain” your current aerobic condition during this phase. You cannot continue to develop it or improve it. It is too late at this point and one long run and one medium length run as Lydiard recommends will only at best maintain you aerobic condition not continue to develop it. On page 51 of his ’84 book Lydiard says you must condition first before the track phases.

Considering easy jogging is still aerobic there is nothing wrong with trying to maintain aerobic development

Again, you mean maintain aerobic condition not maintain aerobic development.

by doing lots of easy aerobic jogging, providing it’s not high aerobic level, during anaerobic development. In fact, it is critical that you do maintain your aerobic development by doing plenty of aerobic running during this phase). Therefore mileage decreases significantly from the base building phase to about 50 miles per week initially and continues to decrease from this point onward. Here the focus is on lactic acid tolerance and speed development. To maintain your aerobic base you will be doing only 2 distance runs per week including one long run.

Lydiard says that restraint is critical during this phase. You are still 6 to 12 weeks away from the big race. Lydiard says don’t push too hard too soon or you could peak too soon and not high enough. Gradually increase the intensity over several weeks and you will peak when it counts the most and the peak will be higher. Also Lydiard says the number of intervals and any target times are just a guide. Go until you feel you have had enough for that day. In general, the total distance of the intervals should add up to be approximately equal to your goal race distance or a little longer (Snell did a lot more than total distance of 800m or a mile and Magee didn’t do repetitions totaling up to 6 miles or a marathon distance! A rule of thumb Lydiard gives is total fast runs of about 3 miles or 5000m for all racing distances)

Take a look at Lydiard’s schedule above from his ’62 book. 6 x 200 equals about 0.8 miles. 12 x 300 equal about 2.2 miles. 4 x 800 equal 3 miles.

What Lydiard actually says in his ’84 book is “The times of the repetitions, and the intervals, the number of repetitions and the distances run are not really important.”

In his ’62 book on page 79 he says “repetitions at more and less the distance of the chosen race distance”

This is correct and very important too. However, if you look at some of Lydiard’s lecture material (such as Athletic Training or Japan Lecture Script, which, by the way, I prepared) he now says that you get the best effect from the approximate total distance of fast runs being about 5000m. Check out or

The recovery should be a jog that takes about as long as the interval took to run (This would not be enough recovery. Lydiard likes to take the equal distance jog between the fast runs). In general longer intervals are done earlier in this phase and shorter ones later (This sounds like a good general rule of thumb but not always necessarily. Perhaps better general rule would be; relatively slower reps first and move onto much faster reps with longer recovery). Do not race these intervals or ever go to afterburners. As Lydiard says, “Train, don’t strain”.

Phase IV – Anaerobic Coordination Phase (6 weeks)

At this point you have a huge aerobic base and you have developed lactic acid tolerance and speed, but you are still not able to race close to your best and you should not try to at this point. If you try to race hard now you will be disappointed in the results and it will hurt your results down the road when it counts the most. Lydiard says the reason is simply that in races, they dont give you 1 lap jog or 2 minute recovery during a race. What you need now is what Lydiard calls Coordination Training. In this phase you coordinate or bring together your aerobic and anaerobic training. You do this by what Lydiard calls developmental racing or time trials if there are no races available (You still need to do some time trials before you engage yourself with developmental races. 

Look at Lydiard’s schedules in pages 100 through 104 in his ’95 book. He no longer distinguishes between time trials and developmental races. He just calls everything a “time trail” and doesn’t distinguish between time trials and races. On page 58 of his ’84 book he says at the completion of the first 4 week of anaerobic work “This is where why time trials and developmental racing are now needed”. He goes on to say once a week do a less important competition or time trial.

Your first time trial should be run all by yourself with no watch or no lap time feedback to you. Entering developmental races before you develop some level of coordination, unless you have iron-will discipline like Lasse Viren, might throw you off from your true condition and give you false information). The races/time trials are not to be run all out and instead should be run at about 7/8 effort and you should not sprint at the finish. It is important to remember that these are not real races as far as you are concerned, it is part of your training and restraint must be used or you will peak too soon. The big race, and the races following the big race are the real races when you will be going all out. The developmental races/time trails should be over race distances shorter, longer and at your target race distance. The bulk of them will be at shorter distances to get you accustomed to the fast pace that you will have to handle in the big race

 During this phase you will run a developmental race or time trial once or twice a week. You will do one pure speed work per week and one interval/repetition workout per week and one long run per week to try to hold on to as much of your aerobic base as possible. Lydiard says it is important to gauge your progress at this time. If you find you are having trouble with a fast pace in your developmental races, but 5 minutes after the race is over you feel like you could have run the race all over again, then fear not. It simply means you have a strong aerobic base but have not done enough anaerobic work yet. If you find you can handle the fast early pace but you fall apart in the last 25% of the race, well, you are basically screwed (This is not so. As stated earlier, in this case, the athlete needs more stamina work by doing longer races/time trials, in a case of a miler, even 5k or 10k race; and for longer distance runner, even 10 mile race or a 15 mile at strong even pace, but by NO mean, the whole season is screwed unless you took a short-cut by doing conditioning at 11 miles a week schedule!).

Lydiard or anyone who knows the basics about running will tell you flat out, that if you have an inadequate base, you are screwed no matter what. Running a hard 10 K won’t make up for lack of endurance.

Dead right; however, slowing down at the end of the race does not always necessarily indicate lack of aerobic base. Assuming you had established a solid base, if this happens, by doing a strong effort distance work can bring stamina back.

Almost all coaches wrongly assume you need more intervals to help your “kick” at the end. They are dead wrong. Lydiard says what is actually going on is you have good anaerobic development which allows you to handle a fast early pace, but you fall apart at the end due to lack of a strong aerobic base (this is an important comment). At this point in the season there is nothing you can do (This is wrong; assuming you have done correct build-up, there are definitely things you can do to balance out)

Again, if the base isn’t there, you cannot make up for it at this late in the game.

other than take your lumps and consider it the price of an education and make sure you have a strong enough base the next time. 

Note that phases III and IV only last a combined total of 10 weeks before you are ready to peak. Lydiard says this is all the anaerobic work you need to peak. He says most coaches, especially American coaches, do anaerobic work way too long and runners get stale and burnout and often peak way too soon. Lydiard says that is why you limit it to 10

Lydiard says anaerobic work is absolutely necessary for racing at your full potential but shouldn’t be carried on for too long because the constant lactic acid production which lowers the pH of the blood, puts tremendous stress on the Central Nervous System. When carried on for too many weeks the stress on the Central Nervous System can cause side effects often referred to as “overtraining” including irritability, interrupted sleep patterns, loss of appetite, loss of desire to train or race and even mild depression. On the other hand Lydiard says that aerobic base building at 100 miles per week can be continued on for month after month without any chance of “overtraining”

Phase V – Peaking Phase (2 weeks)

You are now in top form but how do you put the finishing touches or the sharp knife edge on the blade as Lydiard says? Your last really hard workout should be about 10 days before the big race. After that you do relatively short but very fast workouts with little rest alternating with short easy jogging days. You want to keep the workouts short because you want them to cause you to go deep into oxygen debt but you want to recover quickly from the workout at this late stage. Another workout that Lydiard strongly recommends is called surge training. Not only does it fine tune you, it preps you for an unexpected change in pace in the big race. Surge training consists of sprinting for 50 meters, then floating for 50 meters for a total of about 2 miles. The last 3 days you taper off to hit the peak

Phase VI – Racing Phase (1-6 weeks)

Once you start racing, you are done with training. This is a tough concept for a lot of runners to get used to (great comment!). They feel guilty if they are not training. At this late stage it is too late to train and any hard workouts you now will not only not help you but they will hurt you because you won’t recover in time (Not so much of recovering time but these would further pull your good conditioning down). After the Big Race, you can continue successful racing for 1-6 weeks and possibly even run faster. At some point however, the wheels will fall off the wagon and your season is done. You will know when you reach this point when you go to dig down at the end of a race and there is nothing there. It can happen fairly quickly. The reason it happens is because you start out with a strong aerobic base, then you attain strong anaerobic development. Even as your anaerobic development continues, you gradually start losing your aerobic base due to lack of distance training and this loss accelerates late in the racing phase. That is why you have to start the whole process over again for next year.

End of Season Recovery

For about a week or two just jog 3 miles every other day to get mentally fresh again. Then start whole process over again for next year. Lydiard says to never take a complete break from running or you will needlessly throw away your hard earned gains. This is mistake that is almost universally made by American coaches. In as little as 4 days with no training the following deleterious effects start taking place: Rise in resting heart rate, decrease in heart size, decrease in tone in leg muscles, decrease in blood volume and red blood cells, loss of running economy, decrease in heart stroke volume, decrease in the number of mitochondria in the cells, etc. Granted, these negative changes are small at first but as Lydiard says you are only fooling yourself if you think “rest” is doing you good. Lydiard says competitive distance running is a year round endeavor. Lydiard disciple Marty Liquori (the last American to rank # 1 in the World in the 5000 and in the 1500/mile) says in his book on the Lydiard principles “Few things in life fade as quickly as the results of hard physical training. It is a flower that does not last long after the picking. The first day you miss training, you begin a backward slide. You cannot pick up where you left off, since you have already slid several feet back down the mountain. You cannot put your body on hold [see above deleterious effects of complete rest], in distance running you are either getting better or getting worse at any given moment. There is no status quo in the world of the distance runner.”

Long View

Lydiard says it takes 3-5 consecutive years of his program to reach your full potential assuming you are physically mature (18 or older) and you start before age 35. Lydiard says that the biggest gains happen in the 3rd or 4th years and that you will be shocked by what you are capable of if you follow his plan. You don’t have to wait till you are in your late 20s as American coaches will tell you, or wait for anything else. You don’t have to take years to build up to 100 miles per week. According to Lydiard, an out of shape desk worker who has never done anything physical his whole life can run 100 miles per week in 9 weeks as long as he has no pre-existing heart condition.

Examples of Lydiard’s Runners – Progress Under his System

It took Lydiard about 12 years of experimentation on himself and some of his runners to finalize his system. Here is the progression of his first 3 famous pupils.

Murray Halberg

Age 18 before Lydiard 4:41 mile, 10:22 2 mile

first year age 19 4:17 mile 9:37 2 mile

2nd year age 20 4:04 mile 9:09 2 mile

3rd year age 21 8:55 2 mile

4th year age 22 4:01 mile 8:51 2 mile

eventually he got down to 3:57.5 and 8:30 WR for 2 mile and was Olympic Champion in the 5000. He accomplished all this despite having a withered arm.

Peter Snell

Age 19 before Lydiard 1:54 800 and 4:48 mile

first year age 20 1:48.7 800 and 4:10 mile

2nd year age 21 1:44.1 relay 800 and 4:01.5 mile

3rd year age 22 Olympic 800 champion

4th year age 23 1:43eq 800 and 3:54 mile

Barry Magee

According to Lydiard could never in his career run faster than 58 in a 440.

age 18 before Lydiard 4:50 mile and 11:00 2 mile

age 19 first year 9:50 2 mile

eventually Magee got down to 8:45 2 mile, 13:38 5000, 28:50 10000 and 4:07 in the mile. Amazing for a guy who couldn’t run faster than 58 for a quarter. He was ranked # 1 in the World in the 10000 and # 2 in the 5000 by Track & Field News. Also won bronze in the Olympic marathon.

Sample Program

Here is an example of a runner whose Big Race goal is the 3000 on September 4th. He has already completed the 9 week ascent to peak mileage (Phase I) and 5-8 months of base building (Phase II). Obviously, the goal times for each workout must be individually tailored. Even then, Lydiard says the goal times and number of intervals are just guides and the runner should determine “when they have had enough for that day”.

Sample Phase III through VI for 3000 runner

6/143 x 400 in 80 (400jog)8E10x 100 (3 min)5E4 x 400 in 77 (400jog)5E18E
6/215E6 x 400 in 74 (400jog)8E5E3 x mile in 5:20 (800jog)5E17E
6/285E10 x 100 (3 min)8E5E5 x 1000 in 3:15 (600jog)5E16E
7/55E8 x 400 in 71 (400jog)8E5E6 x 800 in 2:30 (400jog)5E15E
7/125E8 x 200 in 32 (200jog)8E10 x 100 (3 min)5ERace 800 75% effort14E
7/195E10 x 400 in 68 (400jog)8E4 x 200 in 30 (200jog)5ETime Trial 600 75% effort13E
7/265E8 x 600 in 1:46 (400jog)8E10 x 100 (3 min)5ERace Mile 80% effort12E
8/25E12 x 400 in 65 (400jog)8E4 x 200 in 29 (200jog)5ETime Trial 400 85% effort11E
8/95E20 x 400 in 67 (400jog)8E5E5ERace 800 90% effort10E
8/165E6 x 400 in 60 (1 min walk)5E8 x 100 in 14 (15 sec walk)5ETime Trial 1200 90% effort9E
8/233 x 400 in 58 (1 min walk)5E2 miles of 50/50 surge/float5E5ERace mile 95% effort8E
8/305E4 x 200 in 30 (30 sec walk)5E3E3EThe Big Race 30003E
9/65E12 x 100 in 14 (15 sec walk)5E400 in 57 (1min) 3×200 in 28 (30 sec)5E2 miles of 50/50 surge/float8E
9/135E4 x 200 in 30 (30 sec walk)5E3E3ERace 50003E
9/203E4 x 200 in 30 (30 sec walk)5E3E3ERace 50003E
9/273E3ERace 8003E3ERace mileRest

(I feel the progress seems way too steep; 3×400 in 80 to 10×400 in 68 in 5 weeks and this I feel is due to avoiding the hill phase;

Yes, that is why it starts out easy.

not enough sprint work (only two 10×100 and only one 50/50 sharpeners which Lydiard schedules at least four times in four weeks;

Not true. Lydiard has sharpeners only twice in his entire program in his ’84 book.

when you do high intensity work such as 3×400 in 58 , the rest (1 min. walk) is way too short; not enough time trial to fully utilize real meaning of time trial as Lydiard has laid out;

This is not a time trial! Lydiard recommends doing 4 x 200 very fast late in his schedule.

and for a 3000m runner, hardly not enough time trials and/or developmental races at that distance – in fact, there isn’t any!)

Here is Peter Snell’s Base Building prior to the 1964 Olympics:

Snell’s Base Building from 1964 (between April 18 and June 28):

15 miles, 1:30-1:40 (~6-6:30’s)
11 miles, 1:08 (~6:10’s)
18 miles, 1:55 (~6:25’s)
10 miles, 54-55:00 (~5:30’s)
15 miles, 1:30-1:40 (~6-6:30’s)
22 miles (~6-6:45’s)
10 miles, 54-55:00 (~5:30 pace)

As you know 12 weeks later he went on to be the only man to be double 800/1500 champ.  And back then they ran 4 rounds of each compared to 3 rounds now.

Final Comment: If you only run 80 miles a week instead of 100 during the marathon conditioning period, that’s still Lydiard training. But if you contort the meaning behind certain training that Lydiard recommends and start to introduce what other people say, then that’s not Lydiard training any more. It is a type of training but should not be associated with the name Lydiard and that’s exactly a type of quality control the Lydiard Foundation is going to have to do. We all know what Lydiard says about his training; books are available and he has never been shy about sharing his opinion. But someone comes along and start saying that Lydiard tells people that they should jump from sedentary state to running 100-mile a week in 9 weeks and someone actually does it and gets injured and claims Lydiard method is no good; it is a serious damage to a very valid training principle.

In his ’62 book on page 145 under the chapter titled “The myth of Middle age, he asks the question “Have you spent all your years sitting down at a clerical or physically-easy job?”

On the next page it says starting from nothing, “it would not be many weeks before he could run 10 miles, even if he could not run at all when he started.” So what is “not many weeks”. It is about 5 weeks. We are not talking months here. Two pages later he goes on to say “You can soon learn to run 20 miles if you want to.” Well, if it takes about 5 weeks to get to 10, then soon would be another 4-5 weeks. Add it up and you get 9 weeks. Lydiard did not say 9 weeks of course but if you read what he says it is about 9 weeks for a sedentary office worker to 20 mile runs.

Or if someone comes along and says that it’s okay to skip hill training because most people consider it unnecessary when the last person to say so is Lydiard himself, or start shifting track schedule around and now the method loses its pattern which is to develop one element after the other and put them all together in a balanced way so you can peak on the day; it is a serious damage to the very valid training principle. John Molvar provides some very valid comments and shows very good insights to the program with interesting statistics. But the training pattern provided in this paper is a Molvar program. It should not be presented to substitute or represent the Lydiard method.

Well I will agree with you there that I did try to reconcile inconsistencies in Lydiard’s book and the books of highly respected people who say they used Lydiard’s principles. So in the end, there is certainly an element of my work in there. But I think the important thing here is perhaps Lydiard’s greatest feeling, that is to spread his word as far as possible. I am doing that and I feel I am doing it well with my thesis.

It’s always great to see people