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Marathon Speed: Part I

I’ve been meaning to do a write up on marathon speed for some time now. Now, as I actually begin writing, I realize that there is a lot to cover here and will require a few parts to it. Otherwise, I might as well add another chapter to the book! The trick here is to figure out the best starting point!

Lydiard and Periodization

The best place to begin is with some thoughts on Lydiard and periodization in general. People describe Lydiard as a linear periodization, best represented by the pyramid we’ve shown before.

pyramid

The foundation is slower, easy running. Over time you add faster and faster work until you are able to incorporate very fast repeats (faster than mile pace). Supplemental running like hills and strides are done nearly all the time. But where does all of this fit for the marathon? Even Lydiard put in his writings that his marathon runners wouldn’t go past the 5k/10k type of intervals during marathon training. To me, this points out a very important aspect of speed work or speed development. Speed training is relative to what you are training for. However, it also raises another question, if this is the case, and we are should be training our most race specific aspects the last several weeks, is the Lydiard pyramid the best way to go about. So this brings about a few things that I wanted us to think about with Lydiard and periodization.

  1. What type of periodization is best for the marathon, Lydiard’s linear where systems are stressed systematically? OR, do we take a non linear approach, where all systems are stressed to some degree over the course of the training block?
  2. Many coaches take Lydiard’s pyramid very literal and do step beyond the 5k or 10k “threshold” for their marathoners and put very high lactic workouts near the end of the training block, when we are “supposed” to be focusing race specific work.
  3. Some coaches criticize our program because the speed is in the beginning of the program because of the idea that the lactic work puts too much stress on the development of the aerobic system.
  4. With all of this, how would I classify the Hanons Marathon Method? Linear, non-linear, something else?

Ok, great stuff to think about! Let’s jump in. I don’t know if these will be answered in order, but I’ll see what happens. As far as how Lydiard’s linear style periodiztion goes, I truly do believe it will work for everything 10k and under, 100%. I would say I am at about 95% of being completely sold on it being the best marathon style periodization. My major hang up for the linear style progression is the practicality of it for the recreational and even competitive athlete. Why? Because it would force people who aren’t training for a national meet or a world championship type race to sacrifice a lot of time with sub-par and under-trained races in order to reach their peak racing fitness. In short, their optimal racing window would be a very short window of a few weeks over a couple periods a year. That’s a very tough sell to many runners.

With that said, how can we still promote long term development, but not force ourselves into a situation with a very limited window of opportunity? That’s where the non-linear approach comes in. My basic understanding of how this works is that you have your training block of a few months and within that block, all training stresses are appropriately stressed. However, it’s not like you do this through the entire training segment. For instance, your last six weeks would truly be dedicated to marathon specific work, but you may have 2 or 3 “speed” type workouts sprinkled in there. I’ve seen a lot more of this type of periodiztion come up in discussions. To me, it makes sense for pretty much every level of runner. This type of training model allows runners to be but a few weeks away from being able to run well at many different distances. Long term development is stressed by :

  1. racing different distances and
  2. trying to improve at primary distance from year to year.

With all of this said, where would I say that the Hansons Marathon Methods fit in?

That is a two part answer.

First, with the schedules you’ve seen in the book, I think it’s a hybrid of the linear and non-linear styles. This is because there is a dedicated block of “speed” in the beginning, without much emphasis on speed late in the training block. You have to look at this way: These schedules are designed to work for a high percentage of people, so we have to put things in a way that will make most people successful. So in this case, we don’t want people to sacrifice speed throughout the segment, but we don’t want them to be doing speed all through the training, either. For many people, that would put them in that “acidosis” state and hamper their development. So, it’s really trying to make one style work for a large number of people.

On the other hand, coaching an individual, then we can tailor the schedule specific to you. Here, we would be a more non-linear approach to the marathon training. Personally, I probably wouldn’t make you do six straight weeks of speed intervals without a break in there. Would the majority be in the beginning of the schedule? Yes, the focus’ would still be the same, but we’d insert occasional workouts that would make sure all systems are stressed.

So to answer a couple of the numbers above. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. Lydiard works, non-linear works. It truly does depend on the runner’s situation and what we are trying to accomplish. Hansons philosophy? Definitely leans towards a non-linear approach with our coaching clients, while the beginner and advanced programs that many people are familiar with, lie somewhere in the middle. Is there a reverse-linear model?

We are really left with why the speed is in the beginning of the block for the marathon training and why I don’t feel that the runner goes into “acidosis” by doing this. However, this post is now over a thousand words, so we’ll leave that for part II.

As always, thanks for reading. Hopefully, this begins to shed a little more light on why we do things just a touch differently for the marathon.

-Luke

 

Hanson’s Philosophy

PlayPlay

This consists of what I would describe as the pillars of the Hanson philosophy. While we do certainly go into length in our books, it is so important for anyone that is using the system, or even thinking about the system to have a full understanding of why the training is the way it is. Ok, so let’s just jump right in!

What is our goal with marathon training? Well, yes, it is to finish as strongly as possible. Thanks to all the smarties out there 🙂 Let me rephrase, what is our end goal from a training standpoint? From the Hanson view it is to develop a high level of marathon readiness through the concept of cumulative fatigue.

Cumulative Fatigue: The development of fatigue through the long term effects of training which results in in a profound increase in running strength. In other words, it’s not one workout that makes you tired. Not one sticks out as being “the one” but rather you are fatigued/tired from the daily grind. The important aspect here is that you aren’t training too hard so that you are in a hole that you can’t get out of. And there it is, how do we train hard, but avoid overtraining. Well, Charlie, let’s find that golden ticket!

Hanson’s Philosophy- Part II

Yesterday, I wrote the first part of this series of blogs. I promised that I would get the second part out as soon I as I could, so here goes:

The third component of the marathon philosophy is consistency. You cannot have consistency without balancing your paces/training out. As well, you can’t run higher mileage without consistency. It really is such a tangled web we weave. To me, consistency is not just running most days of the week. That’s a great start, but now extned that to weeks, then a month, then months, and finally to years of just steady conistent training. I personally feel that being consistent will show a great deal of improvment by itself, even if it means slowing down some of your workout paces to tolerate the increase in days/volumes.

In my own running, I can tell you what consistancy meant to me. Looking at my training and when I had my biggest breakthroughs it was pretty clear when I had success. It wasn’t when I was hitting these monster workouts. That was great, but all I did was overtrain. I left my race on the bike path of Stony Creek Metropark. When I had my biggest breakthroughs it was when I had just hummed along through months of healthy and steadily progressing training. I was trained completely, but not completely overtrained. The trick is to recognize this as it is happening so you can copy it all the time. However, that’s the really hard part!

To finish up on constency, all of this ties together. We already showed how the first three components tie into each other, but what really brings these things together is the ability to run at your appropriate paces. By training at the paces appropriate for you then 1) you keep your training in balance because you are getting the desired benefits of the workouts. Training too fast can turn a speed workout into a repeat, or maximal effort workout. A marathon tempo can be turned into a strength workout. You are always missing out on what the workout is trying to accomplish. As far as higher mileage is concerened, when the paces are not right (usually too fast) then what happens? Right, we start shortening workouts because we ran too hard for what we were trying to do and we take days off because we are too fatigued from running too hard for several days in a row. By keeping paces in check, you allow yourself to run on the days that could be offdays. Easy running, when kept easy allows you to build mileage, recover from workouts, and does give you a tone of aerobci benefit. You know what that sounds like to me? Bingo, now you are being consistent with your training! You have now set yourself up for success within the current training block, but for long term training, too. It’s such a gorgeous thing.

What this all feels like during training is that feeling of cumulative fatigue. You are tired, but incredibly strong, fit, and able to do what is asked of you day after day. You aren’t so tired that you can’t bounce back, but you feel that fatigue of training hard. It’s heaven and hell, all at the same time. However, that fatigue is exactly how you are going to feel the last 10k of the marathon. The difference between you and the other guy, is that you have taken yourself to that place and and made it back intact. Having that confidence when the going gets tough is how the tough get going!

So there you have it, the philosophy of the Hanson’s marathon method. The very basic of basic concepts that pull the whole thing together- the amino acids of the training organism. While I know that many of you already use the syetem, I know that some of you may never buy in- that’s totally fine. I do hope that some of this can help you when you set forth on your own path.

As always, thanks for reading. Good running-

Luke

Hanson’s Philosophy

A few days ago, I put together a Youtube video pertaining to the cornerstone of our marathon training philosophy (and hopefully a podcast shortly). It consists of what I would describe as the pillars of the Hanson philosophy. While we do certainly go into length in our books, it is so important for anyone that is using the system, or even thinking about the system to have a full understanding of why the training is the way it is. Ok, so let’s just jump right in!

What is our goal with marathon training? Well, yes, it is to finish as strongly as possible. Thanks to all the smarties out there 🙂 Let me rephrase, what is our end goal from a training standpoint? From the Hanson view it is to develop a high level of marathon readiness through the concept of cumulative fatigue.

Cumulative Fatigue: The development of fatigue through the long term effects of training which results in in a profound increase in running strength. In other words, it’s not one workout that makes you tired. Not one sticks out as being “the one” but rather you are fatigued/tired from the daily grind. The important aspect here is that you aren’t training too hard so that you are in a hole that you can’t get out of. And there it is, how do we train hard, but avoid overtraining. Well, Charlie, let’s find that golden ticket!

What makes cumulative fatigue work are four components, including balance, weekly mileage, consistency, and appropriate paces. Our first component is balance and balance alone has different meanings to runners. For our discussion, balance is referring to our balance of training paces, or workouts that we do. For Hanson followers, this is the SOS days. When we abandon a certain training pace, or load up on a certain workout, several things happen.

  • Running the same paces all the time, or better yet, running hard (or easy) just makes you stale over time.
  • Excuse to skip out of certain training components. The biggest example here is only running hard days and leaving out easy days. this can be by choise or necessity because we ran too hard on the workout day!
  • Miss out on valuable training adaptations that occur throughout the spectrum of paces.
  • Cut ourselves short of developing “balanced” over the long term. Say you only do certain things during the marathon training. That’s great, you’ll probably be ok for that training block. However, now you want to run a series of 5k’s and 10k’s over the summer, but you can’t race yourbest because now you have to focus on building what you neglected during the marathon training. Keeping that balance can shorten your time needed for training blocks because you never skip out on one thing to make more room for another. 

So, in making these points, I realize that so many things I talked about in this section overlap into the following sections. Without one pillar, the structure starts to collapse. In starting with balance, I think it naturally leads into the next component, which is moderate to high weekly mileage.

Without a doubt, I firmly believe in running moderate to high mileage, especially for the marathon. There are many people who will read this and scoff at it because they have had success with 3 days/week programs. That is great and there is certainly more than one way to accomplish your goal, but our program just believes that with what we are trying to get you accomplish, appropriate mileage is a necessity. Think of it this way, say yourun 20 miles/week for 5k training. This is 4x the distance you are going to race. Running 30 miles per week is barely 1x greater than your race distance. Further the workouts youdo for a 5k can fit in that amount of mileage and be appropriate for what you are racing. When you move from a 5k to a marathon, or a race that is 8x longer, you quickly run out of mileage to fit everything in that you need. With that said:

  • when you keep the balance in your training, you automatically will run more mileage, especially as the race distance increases
  • Moderate mileage, rather, I guess I should say appropriate mileage, is part of cumulative fatigue and this means running nearly every day. Without it, recovery is nearly complete before the next workout. This directly dictates with cumulative fatigue.

Now, it certainly takes time to develop the ability to handle more mileage. When trying to build up your mileage, the first thing to do is look at all the variables. From my experience, it’s the cliche, too much too soon. Problems usually arise when runners try to run too hard on every run, or they try to jump their mileage before their structural system is ready to handle. In short, usually it’s not the mileage that’s the culprit to injury, but how we got to that mileage.

Ok, so this is getting pretty long, so let’s pick it up another day with the last two components of the Hanson marathon philosophy.

Beginning to understand the hanson philosophy

I was recently reading another “coach” bio on the interwebs and it got me thinking a few things. The first was, “Dang. Everyone is a coach these days!” That’s a whole different story. What I was really thinking about was training philosophy. This young man had about 20 names listed as his coaching influences and for reasons we’ll discuss, puzzled/worried me. Why? Well, the thing is, the first response to this was, “Why so many?” Was he just name dropping to look smart? Maybe. But maybe there was more to it than that. I think there may have also been a big lack of understanding in what these coaches really stood for in their own coaching philosophies. For one, you could really divide the group he listed into three groups. The first group, well ok, person, would have been Arthur Lydiard. He is without a doubt the man with the plan when it comes to training. The second group would be the pupils of Mr. Lydiard. This was the majority of the names mentioned. The last group was smaller, but consisted of the non Lydiard lineage.

So, the second group I totally get. It’s the same ingredients, just different mixtures. Everyone has their own interpretation about what Lydiard would do in present day. I completely understand the slight differences. On a side note, I have been reading a lot of notes and articles lately involving many of these other good coaches. I found it funny that a lot of what they did differently wasn’t out of differences in thought, but rather, out of necessity. Some of it was due to climate or facilities. Some of it was geographical. These coaches did what they could to mimic the original based on what they had to work with!

What I don’t understand is how the third group of coaches played into this. You have on your left, one school of thought. On the other you have a completely opposite school of thought and now you are somehow supposed to integrate components from both. To me, it seems very counterproductive. I am all for being adaptive and growing as we find new theories, but you can’t play politician and flip sides when your crowd changes. Stick with what you believe and if you don’t know what to believe, find something!

Ok, so enough soap boxing ( I really wasn’t attempting a political theme here…) and let’s get to what matters with us! What is the Hanson Philosophy?

That’s a great question and until I began working on the book, I didn’t have an exact answer. This isn’t going to be a short answer, but it will be thorough. Overall, everything that involves Kevin and Keith Hanson (the elite distance project and the schedules for the masses) is Lydiard based in thought. So, let’s go over what exactly is the Lydiard thought process?

Lydiard in a nutshell:

Ok, the VERY basic Lydiard philosophy:

Lydiard Training Pyramid

Simple right? Don’t let it trick you. All it’s saying is that you the base of your training is easy aerobic running. After you build that you can move to the next level, then the next level, all the way until you are close to you your goal race. Each step is smaller in size, but higher in intensity. All year, you do things like hills and form drills.

Now, if you read in depth about Lydiard, what you find is interesting. This is the pyramid that is the staple for his training- but he wrote that you “climbed the ladder” to the point where you were racing. So, an 800/1500 meter specialist would climb that ladder all the way to the top. However, as Lydiard indicated that for a marathon runner, he wouldn’t get past the 5k intervals.

Where it gets complicated for marathon runners, to me anyway, is that Lydiard indicates two things what would leave room for discussion. 1) That training needs to be balanced. This means that all aspects of training are somehow incorporated into a training program. 2) That he wants the most race specific work to be done near the time of the goal race. However, in his writings he has the last few weeks of a marathoners program doing intervals at 10k and sometimes 5k pace. To me, the last thing I really want to do is to be on the track doing intervals two weeks before my marathon. This is where I can see some room for negotiation.By no means am I claiming to be smarter than Mr. Lydiard, only that I have trained for a few marathons and know what my body likes…

It is that second point where you will see the biggest discrepancy in the classic Hanson Marathon schedules and the Lydiard philosophy. In the classic schedules you will see the speed more in the beginning of the program. Why? It’s simple- the runner has a balance in training and no aspect is left out. Also, the last several weeks are completely devoted to marathon specific running. Some argue that the speed lowers the pH in the blood and this hurts aerobic development. However, the speed in the beginning acocunts for roughly 7% of the total weekly volume. 93% of the running over the rest of the week is marathon pace, or slower. From a practical standpoint, we don’t care if the intervals are truly at their best 5k or 10k times. If they are slower than their true 5/10k potential, that is fine. The work they do would then be closer to lactate threshold and still provide a great transition to the marathon specific work later in the segment!

Remember, the classic schedules are designed to fill a wide spectrum of runners and what is offered individually may be different. The book has an entire chapter devoted to the marathon philosophy that Kevin and Keith have developed over the years to fit those runners. For members, I am working on a complete detailed explanation of the training philosophies- so watch out for updates!