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Training - 1970s Style

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7/27/08

I have a copy of the original (1974) edition of “The Complete Runner: from the editor’s of Runner's World Magazine”, subtitled “Running's Ultimate Book: for the marathon runner to the around-the block jogger”. It consists of a compilation of articles originally written for other purposes, such as articles for various issues of RW magazines, plus a few articles written specifically for this book by then RW editors and others. The book contains a section titled “Training”, which includes six articles, only one of which….Guiding Principles….presents training principles and methodology.

 

It’s interesting how similar, yet different, training guidelines of 35 years ago were compared to today’s more science-based guidelines available in books such as “Daniels’ Running Formula” by Jack Daniels, “Advanced Marathoning” by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas, “The Competitive Runner’s Handbook” by Bob Glover, and others. The following is that article.

 

GUIDING PRINCIPLES

 

“You get writers who think that there is some kind of magic formula, and they want to be the first to tell the world how to do it. What’s the secret? Yogurt? Vitamins? Maybe. I don’t know. But I’ll tell you one thing. You don’t run 26 miles at five minutes a mile on good looks and a secret recipe.”

----Frank Shorter

 

There aren’t any secret recipes for success in running. There are recipes alright. Hundreds of them. But no one has a secret one hidden away to put him measurably ahead of all other runners.

 

For one thing, runners talk too much to keep secrets for very long. When they get together, they argue about and analyze their training methods the way less active people discuss religion and politics.

 

Everyone has an opinion on which method is best. Everyone keeps looking for better ones. This keeps the talk among runners lively.

 

Runners can’t agree on a single recipe because there’s nothing to agree upon. As long as certain general routes are followed, there are an almost infinite number of ways to reach the same end. Half the fun in running is in mapping out those ways, watching where they lead, and arguing with runners who come at the same place from a different direction.

 

Rather than get bogged down here in the details of running it’s better that we talk in terms of general guidelines. The details change as quickly as the leaders in the running world. The underlying principles of training have always and will always be the same.

 

Every system worth its sweat incorporates certain established principles. Knowing them and following them ensures a quicker, smoother trip to the end that you are seeking.

 

DEFINING TRAINING

 

The dictionary defines “train” this way: “1. to cause to grow as desired.  2. to form by instruction, discipline or drill.  3. to make or become prepared (as by exercise) for a test or skill.  4. to aim or point for an object.”

 

The Runner’s Training Guide puts the word into a running context: “Training, by definition, is practicing to perfect a skill. It is reaching for something better in the future than what you now have, or at least keeping from slipping below self-imposed minimum standards. In running, the object in training is learning to go farther, faster. Standing in the way are distance and time, effort and pain. Training allows runners small but significant victories over these.”

 

Training is a selective, carefully planned courting of stress. Stress, as Ian Jackson wrote in the preceding section, is the root of all training. It makes or breaks a runner, depending on how much is applied. A runner needs some of it but can’t stand too much. The trick to training is finding the right edge between effort and exhaustion, and tiptoeing along it.

 

THE PRINCIPLES

 

Training, at first glance, might look confusing. It has a language all its own. It takes complex math to figure out the schedule some runners follow.

 

But if you look beneath the surface details (the “eyewash”, New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard calls it) to the substance, it’s really fairly simple. A child can follow it, perhaps because it is rooted in the unconscious play activities of children. The basic methods have been around for as long as people – and animals – have run.

 

Bill Bowerman, the most successful middle-distance coach in U.S. history, says, “Types of application differ, but basic principles don’t. They’re like the Law of Gravity. People talk about the ‘new’ method of interval training. Interval training – in crude form – is probably as old as running itself. Continuous steady running is as old as running, too. All that has changed is our use of these methods.”

 

Forbes Carlile, an Australian who once ran long distance and now coaches swimmers, works as an exercise physiologist. He studies the effects of training. In the 1950s, Dr. Carlile produced a list of 10 principles he said applied to all athletics. The principles here are based on his original set.

 

  1. Stress – Ian Jackson’s article in this chapter discusses stress in detail, defining it as the “wear and tear” on the body. Stress, in manageable amounts, provokes a positive training response. But if the load is too heavy, it overloads the adaptive system.

 

  1. Overload – this isn’t to be confused with “overwork.” Forbes Carlile says, “The training load must be severe and must be applied frequently enough and with sufficient intensity to cause the body to adapt maximally to a particular activity.” But he cautions, “It is at the same time true that sustained all-out efforts in training or in races should be made only sparingly.”

 

  1. Specificity – The body adapts to the specific exercise it receives. Therefore, training must closely approximate the activity you are preparing for – in both distance and speed. If you are a sprinter, the bulk of the running must be in short sprints. If you’re a long distance runner, it must be in sustained running.

 

  1. Regularity – Almost any runner will stay in good form on even a slight amount of running – if only he trains regularly. Physiologists think runners need to train at least 3-4 days a week to gain and maintain acceptable fitness levels. If they want higher levels, they need to train more regularly. Condition is lost in a matter of weeks without running.

 

  1. Progression – Progress is most rapid and apparent at the beginning of training, and slows as maximum potential is approached. The more one improves, the harder it is to keep improving. If further improvement comes, it often comes in fits and starts – with a “plateau” effect. But the ground that has been won is relatively easy to hold.

 

  1. Diminishing Returns – The first mile yields the most return. Each one after that gives less. Runners work more and more for less and less. Runner-writer Hal Higdon says, “It doesn’t take much to get 90% fitness – only a few miles a day. But it takes progressively more training as you get closer to your ultimate potential – until at the highest levels you’re putting in a huge investment for a very small (additional) gain."

 

  1. Recovery – Work and rest go together. Forbes Carlile writes, “Recuperation periods are essential both during a single training session and throughout the year. Rest, with consequent physical and mental relaxation, must be carefully blended with doses of exercise. A rhythmical cycle of exercise and recuperation should be established. There is a time for strenuous activity and a time for resting. The rigidity of too definite a program of training may easily drive the athlete to exhaustion."

 

  1. Seasons – Sub-maximal training has been equated with putting money in the bank. All-out effort is withdrawing it. A runner can’t withdraw indefinitely, but must go back and replenish his reserves during an “off-season.” World ranked athletes have been shown over the past several years to “peak” at the end of their second month of racing, in about the third important race. Few of them race well year-round, or attempt it.

 

  1. Pacing – This has short-term and long-term connotations – the pace of individual runs and the pace week to week, month to month, year to year. One principle applies to both: the harder and faster a person goes, the shorter distance he will be able to go. Fast pace gets you there quickly. Slow pace lets you go longer.

 

  1. Individualizing – Dr. Carlile: “Always the most important consideration must be how the individual is responding to training…Training must be tailored to the individual for best results.”

 

WAYS OF TRAINING

 

Centuries before man trained for prizes and records, he ran for his life. And only in terms of dire emergency did he run for all he was worth. While traveling long distances or hunting, he ran one of two ways: at a steady, easy lope, or with short bursts of speed broken by recovery periods.

 

These two kinds of running – steady and sporadic – are the ancestors of 1970s training. All of our current training comes from one of these “families.” Each of the families has two members – a primitive, “childlike” one, and a modern, mature one.

 

The steady-running family includes “slow” and “fast distance.”

 

  • Slow Distance -- This is the “LSD” (long slow distance) popularized recently by Ernst van Aaken, Tom Osler, Joe Henderson and others. It is done at a pace that feels “comfortable,” with little or no emphasis on time. Van Aaken, a medical doctor, says true LSD is run at a pulse rate of about 130 beats per minute---certainly no higher than 150.

 

Proponents say this kind of running keeps them free from injuries because of its low stress, and that it allows them to build a great reservoir of endurance. They maintain that occasional fast races give them all the speed they need.

 

Critics, however, say that slow distance is “non-specific” for racers---that it doesn’t relate closely enough to racing effort and speed to have much value.

 

  • Fast Distance – “Long slow distance is better than nothing,” says Track Technique editor Fred Wilt, “but it’s not nearly so good as long fast distance.” The runs Wilt recommends are obviously faster and harder than LSD. Pulse rates are 150 and higher. Times are generally taken. Sometimes these are called “time trials.”

 

Fast distance runs are a short step removed from racing. The fitness they give is quite specific to the race, and running them is almost as exciting and straightforward as racing. These are the advantages.

 

The main disadvantage is the work load involved. This can be very hard work. There is always the possibility of escalating from training to straining.

 

The sporadic-running family, the one that evolved from stop-and-go activity, is split into “fartlek” and “interval training.”

 

  • Fartlek – The Swedes gave it the name. It means “speedplay.” Playing with speed is what it is – going through the entire set of gears from jogging through sprinting. Fartlek is moving out and slowing down as the feelings of the moment move you. It is free-form speed training, done without a schedule or stopwatch.

 

Users say they like it because it is a change-of-pace in more than the speed sense. It allows them to combine the speed of track running with the freedom of cross-country.

 

Detractors say the method is too easily abused. It can deteriorate  either into a too-easy slow distance or a too-exhausting fast one. A related problem is the lack of specific goals and controls, which make results hard to measure.

 

  • Intervals – These are the more formalized version of fartlek, alternating effort with recovery. Intervals are usually (though not always) carefully planned and timed, and are run on a track. Several factors can be juggled: distance of the fast run; interval of rest or recovery between fast runs; repetitions of the fast run; time of the fast runs; your activity (walking, jogging, resting) between fast runs. The variables are identified by the code word “dirty.”

 

Interval training offers endless possibilities for combinations (ex-Hungarian coach Mihaly Igloi is said to have 40,000 different interval workouts). No other method allows the degree of control. Properly applied, it’s said to produce the fastest results.

 

Runners who don’t like interval training say it is needlessly complicated and sterile – that it has a machine-like quality.

 

TRAINING COMBINATIONS

 

Seldom will a runner use one method – slow or fast distance, fartlek or intervals – to the exclusion of all others. The elements are combined depending on his aims in the sport, and his racing and training preferences.

 

The booklet “Runner’s Training Guide” summarizes the practice patterns of 20-30 top-level runners in each event. Several generalizations can be made from the chart titled “Survey of Training Patterns” (see below).

 

  • Nearly all athletes combine two or more of the methods. Only the percentages vary.
  • As racing distances go up, so does running frequency – from 5.8 days per week for sprinters to 6.9 days per week for marathoners, with long distance runners often training twice a day.
  • As racing distances go up, the percentage of speed work drops steadily. Only 100-yard dashmen do a majority of fartlek/intervals.
  • Longer distance runners seem to prefer fartlek to interval training.
  • Runners in none of the events race more than 8% of their total mileage – which is in line with the recommended limits of Arthur Lydiard, Ernst van Aaken and other authorities.
  • Ken Young has observed that a long distance runner needs to train at least one-third of his racing distance every day. The long distance runners in this study easily meet this requirement, with the marathoners averaging a half marathon daily.

 

Survey of Training Patterns

 Race

Ave. Time

Days/Week

Miles/Day

Types of Running* (% of each)

 

Training Site (% of each)

 

 

 

 

S.D.

F.D.

Int.

Flk.

Race

Track

Road

C-Country

100 Yards

9.8

5.8

4.8

17%

16%

49%

12%

6%

 

50%

30%

20%

220 yards

21.9

5.9

5

35%

12%

39%

10%

4%

 

37%

37%

26%

440 yards

48.8

5.9

7.5

40%

12%

35%

9%

4%

 

44%

33%

23%

880 yards

1:52

6.4

9

55%

17%

17%

7%

4%

 

28%

50%

22%

One mile

4:10

6.8

10.5

55%

19%

15%

6%

6%

 

22%

52%

26%

Two miles

9:00

6.8

11

58%

18%

11%

7%

6%

 

17%

60%

23%

3 Miles

13:50

6.8

12.8

53%

26%

9%

8%

4%

 

18%

50%

32%

6 miles

29:00

6.9

13

59%

21%

10%

4%

6%

 

18%

63%

19%

9-15 miles

--------

6.9

13

51%

21%

5%

15%

8%

 

17%

54%

29%

Marathon

2:26

6.9

13.1

51%

25%

5%

13%

6%

 

13%

63%

24%

*S.D. = slow distance; F.D. = fast distance; Int. = intervals; Flk. = fartlek

 

 

 

 

 

Two prominent technical writers, Ken Doherty and Fred Wilt, say that training should be planned according to the oxygen demands of a runner’s specialty. A bit of physiology: aerobic means with oxygen; anaerobic means without oxygen. In aerobic metabolism, oxygen needs are filled at the same rate they’re required. But in anaerobic activity, there is an oxygen “debt” that must be repaid later.

 

Running is a combination of aerobic and anaerobic. The percentages depend on the running pace. The following chart titled “Summary of Training Needs” lists the approximate proportions Doherty and Wilt have found to be needed. Training, they imply, should prepare a runner to meet these needs. It should be specific to the event.

 

Summary of Training Needs

Race Distance

Category

Aerobic Needs

Anaerobic Needs

Training Emphasis

100y/100m

Short sprints

less than 5%

more than 95%

"Short sprint speed" gained through sprint intervals (30 seconds or less, all-out) or high-speed fartlek.

220y/200m

Short sprints

5%

95%

Same as 100, but perhaps adding some sub-maximal pace intervals or fartlek because these races border on the long sprints.

440y/400m

Long sprints

25%

75%

"Long sprint speed" gained through intervals (close to racing pace, but at shorter distances) or fartlek and fast distance runs.

880y/800m

Middle distances

50%

50%

"Middle distance endurance" gained through pace intervals, fartlek, or fast distance runs (paces related to one's running ability).

Mile/1500m

Middle distances

70%

30%

Same as 880/800, but with adjustments for racing distance and pace.

2 miles/3000m

Middle distances

85%

15%

Same as 880/800, but with adjustments for racing distance and pace.

3 miles/5000m

Middle distances

90%

10%

Same as 880/800, but with adjustments for racing distance and pace.

6 miles/10,000m

Middle distances

95%

5%

Similar to other middle distances, but perhaps adding slow distance runs or endurance intervals because these races border on long distances.

Over 10,000m

Long distances

more than 95%

less than 5%

"Long distance endurance" gained through slow distance runs, fast distance runs, or endurance intervals-fartleks.

 

The essential elements vary from event to event. Races 220 yards/200 meters and less rely on what we’ll call “short sprint speed.” From 220/200 through 880yards/800meters, “long sprint speed” is at a premium. Then endurance takes over as the main concern. From half mile through six-miles/10,000 meters, it is “middle distance endurance;” from there up, “long distance endurance.”

 

Slow distance runs are 95% or more aerobic. Their most obvious benefit is long distance endurance. This running must be long enough to stimulate development in that area.

 

Fast distance runs work according to the distance being run. If it’s less than a half-mile, the effect is on speed. If more than a half, endurance results. Length of these runs should relate rather closely to racing distances.

 

Fartlek can yield anything from short sprint speed to long distance endurance. Run it according to your needs.

 

Intervals come in several varieties: (1) sprint (all-out, 30 seconds or less, to develop short sprint speed); (2) pace (at or near the pace of the race, for long sprint speed or middle distance endurance); (3) endurance (slower than race pace, for middle or long distance endurance). Pick the type with the race in mind.

 

THE BEST WAY

 

If you’re still wondering, “What’s the best way to train?” the advice from two runners from diverse backgrounds may help. They both say don’t train at all.

 

New Zealander Jack Foster ran a 2:11 marathon at age 40. He runs a lot, of course, but he doesn’t consider it “training.”

 

“When I was asked about training and schedules last time,” he once said, “I told the guy ‘I don’t train. I just went for a run each day.’ It has to be a pleasure to go for a run. Otherwise, no dice. This fact that I’m not prepared to let running be anything but one of the pleasures of my life, is the reason I fail by just so much. However, this doesn’t bother me. Neither does the prospect of running 2:30 or even 2:50 marathons in the future.”

 

Sid Gendin, a philosophy professor who has an article in this book, writes, “I don’t believe in training. Any runner who divides his running into two phases – (a) training; (b) competing – is committing the worst error he can make in this sport. Training implies drudgery undergone for the sake of some alleged end. This means that 95% of running won’t be fun.”

 

Gendin’s First and Last Law of Running is “enjoy it.” If you enjoy it, you’ll keep doing it. If results are meant to come, they’ll come. If not, you’ll still have the fun of running. Who can say your way is less than the best?

 

That’s it. Those are the principles and methodologies that runners were told to use 35 years ago. No detailed, “cookbook” training schedules were suggested in “Running’s Ultimate Book”. No training mileage suggestions for runners of varying levels of development or capability. No mention of VO2max, LT or running economy. No specific training paces to try to hit. Just mix and match from these four basic training categories depending on your perceived needs....although, there clearly are similarities to, as well as differences from, training element guidelines that are available today. For example, I’m sure we can visualize workouts in the “fast distance” and “fartlek” categories that relate to today’s tempo runs, cruise intervals and MP training. And the “intervals” category could cover the gamut from anaerobic repetitions to VO2max and cruise intervals that are standard in today’s training programs. But it was incumbent on each runner to experiment to find what combination of the four categories of runs, how much of each, and at what specific intensities worked best for him (there were few “hers” in the sport of running in those days) when training for his chosen race distance.

 

I found a couple of things to be especially interesting about the elites’ training patterns:

 

---5k, 10k and marathon specialists trained about the same number of miles/week. Of course, some of them might have been the same people.

 

---Marathoners ran a lower percentage of slow distance and a higher percentage of fast distance and fartlek mileage than did 10k specialists….just the opposite of what I would have expected. On the other hand, that was offset by a higher percentage of stressful intervals in the 10k runners regimen.

 

---The percentage of mileage that was of the "fast distance" variety was substantial, especially for 5k, 10k and marathon specialists. This is the category that was more commonly known as "fast continuous running" in those days and was called by Glover in the 1988 edition of his book, "The (New) Competitive Runner's Handbook", the "bread and butter" of many runners' training before structured "tempo" runs became popular. In the last 15-20 years, "fast continuous running" or "fast distance runs" seems to have largely disappeared from running vernacular and training programs....although it does still appear in a very limited form and to a limited extent in some training guidelines, such as McMillan's "steady state runs." For the most part, however, today's training guidelines essentially call for virtually all running that is not intended specifically for lactate threshold, VO2max or anaerobic capacity development to be run in what was the "slow distance" category 35 years ago.

 

For non-elite runners the message in this article from the editors of Runner’s World was simple….don’t train, have fun. Some things haven’t changed a bit in 35 years. J