I wholeheartedly second what “Kia Kaha Aotearoa” (most intriguing name…) commented a few posts ago. Most people don’t look at the entire picture but rather take out a section or a combination of several sections and rush to conclusion. You have to look at the whole picture and, in the case of the Lydiard program, the whole cycle and/or culmination of several cycles over the span of several years. One cycle of entire program would be built upon another; that’s how athletes would develop to fulfill their potential.
Good example is this; if Joe S wants to improve, and he’s been running over 70 miles a week for 5 years, so he’s no entirely a beginner but his performance has been plateaued. Now you give him some injection of intervals, he would almost certainly improve his time—could improve quite dramatically as a matter of fact. So you rush to conclusion, “Running over 70 miles a week doesn’t mean anything. It didn’t add anything to my performance. Intervals are the key to success.” True or false? It’s actually both, isn’t it?
When evaluating training or training pattern, you can not take out just one segment of it and come to a conclusion. You would basically have to look at the entire life of that athlete up to that point and draw pieces of the puzzle. That’s what we always to with African runners (“They run to and from school since they were 5-years-old!”) but more often than not we don’t do that when we talk about our own training.
I was quite intrigued with that no-taper program. There have been some cases that the athlete trains fairly hard, or very hard as a matter of fact, and performed well. In the case of Naoko Takahashi when she made the WC team for 5000m way back; she ran 5000m time trial (hard!) in the morning of the race! That’s some extreme case. But I have no idea what she did leading up to that particular day. There have been a case, as Tinman used as an example, such as John Walker running nothing but strong aerobic distance for a couple of weeks and went on to set the WR. But I don’t know what kind of training he did 6 months prior to that and/or what kind of racing schedule he was doing 2 weeks before that. When you race a lot and your aerobic condition starts to come down, one of the best ways to get it up is to have something like what John Walker did. Arthur’s runners used to do three or four Waitakure, 22-miles, three or four days in a row, 22-miles everyday, and you will come right. You cannot, however, do that if you haven’t done solid conditioning period prior to that. Also it may not do anything if you haven’t been racing a lot and your aerobic condition started to deteriorate. Otherwise, why bother? So John Walker did a couple of weeks of 100MPW right before his WR, is it a good training pattern for your PR? Absolutely not. Of course I don’t think that’s not what Tinman is not suggesting that.
If you haven’t completed the phase one, you should not attempt to move into the phase two, or three. But far too many cases, people ignore that with the Lydiard training, or any other training method in that matter. They say running 100MPW is too much or you’ll get injured (overlooking other element Lydiard always talked about), so they don’t do that, yet, they like the Lydiard track schedule so they’d go ahead and do it. That does not pan out. All the training pattern Lydiard suggested, including tapering and use of time trials or sharpening work and all, would not mean anything if you had not developed good aerobic base. It may not necessarily mean to run 100MPW but pretty damn close. If you haven’t done that part of your homework, you may have no choice but to fill that in during the latter part of the program. It probably won’t hurt you that much. As Tinman always seems to advise, it’s heck of a lot better than doing more repeats! But I will still say that it’s not the way to approach the best possible results.
Human body can adapt to a lot of stress. If you give some young athlete to do lots of intervals, every other day, during the competition season, and on the top of that, have him/her run two or three races every week; he/she might even actually improve. Their body will adapt to tremendous amount of stress and may even get used to it and become more efficient at it (recall some old-timer athletes?). Is it the best way to train? NO. I have no intention whatsoever to put down someone who might have improved his 5k time from 18 minutes to 17 by such approach. Not at all. But this same athlete may be able to improve his time down to 16 minutes if done more correctly. Is improving from 18 minutes to 17 a failure? Absolutely not. But if I’m coaching someone at the Olympic Games, sure as hell not-tapering is NOT the approach I would experiment.
Again, Geb might have done some incredible workouts before some of his great performances but (1) consider his background of training, (2) were those workouts actually high stress workout for him at his level of fitness and (3) remember, if you’re world record level of fitness, your recovery rate is so incredible that they may possible set WR with only several days apart (remember Rono, Coe, or Clarke???). Suppose if those workouts were, say, 80% of his maximum workouts, would you give that kind of stress to your high school athletes? I wouldn’t. If I have a choice, I would rather do all the heavy load of workouts earlier on so you can be content with short, sharp work before important competitions so you’d be well-rested.
Another aspect that you should consider would be the fact that Lydiard runners, once they started competing, competed quite frequently. It is, to my understanding, a typical European style and you might even be competing a couple of times a week. Japanese system is a bit different and you may be able to get away with it (races come more irregularly) but even then, they taper as well at least a week prior to the main competition. Competitions are one of the best forms of training. And if you’re doing that once or twice a week, you probably don’t want to, nor should you, train hard any other days. Easy jog and short, sharp stuff with plenty of rest would be all you want to be doing with a long jog to maintain your aerobic development. Here, to me, is another phase that caught my attention; during the competition period, or right before the important competition, you shouldn’t be “developing” your aerobic capacity; you should be “maintaining” it. In other words, developing it should have been done several months ago.
Going back to the very original topic (not “Lydiard or Daniels”); should the mileage be kept up during the competitive season; and what would Lydiard have said about that? I think Lydiard would have said no, you should cut down the mileage, insert short, sharp work and be well-rested for the races. I’m not suggesting that keeping up the mileage and intensity of your workout during the competitive season is all that bad. You may actually improve upon such program depending on the level and background of your training (again, that’s more or less Race-Week / Non-Race-Week schedule). But I’d say that’s not the optimum way to train.