Let’s Do This Thing: the Lydiard Buildup Program

There were 5 days of total rest after the last marathon, and the story evolved from there. It is quite the opposite of an adrenaline-induced plan and more along the lines of pre-meditated suicide. By now, I was fully convinced I would be injured, insanely tired… maybe both – and yet, I proceeded to do this thing anyway.

This thing is the Lydiard Buildup Program as interpreted by John Molvar. For me, mileage builds from 20 miles per week in post-marathon recovery to 66 miles per week in just over 5-weeks of 7-day/week training.

The decision to run 7 days a week did not come about immediately. First I researched.

Most elite coaches speak of how many total workouts per week rather than days of training because “doubles” are standard practice in the training of an elite runner. Coach Jay Johnson’s elite runners average 11 sessions/week over 7 days of training while others double six days a week.

Coach John DeHart advises a rest day is only necessary if you feel you need one. Some elite programs include one rest day every 4th week.

For many years, my training program has included 5 days of running, one day of cross-training, one rest day, and occasionally a “double” once or twice a week. The transition from a 6-day training program to 7 days has been relatively easy. The secret sauce is in keeping the effort easy.

Staying true to the Lydiard-way, I have spent 5 out of the 7 days on a flat surface, which in Western North Carolina means the track at the Rec Center.

Lydiard says to ensure that your running is geared to aerobic development and not muscular development, as much running as possible should be done on paved surfaces to get maximum traction (or to achieve the best aerobic development within the given time, putting the pressure on the cardiac system not the leg muscles), and over a flat course so neuromuscular breakdown won’t stop the duration of the long run.

Tired & Sore hit me on Day 13 and, as promised by Lydiard, the soreness was gone within a couple of days… as was the nagging soreness in my hips and calves that had been there since the marathon. By Day 15, nothing hurt. Then came Day 19…..my right knee was stiff and swollen.

Lydiard cautions that when you ascend rapidly, the tendons around the knees and in the front shins can become 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.

There was a day of Ibuprofen….. a good soak in Epson salt, and the stiffness subsided. Zero days were missed.

In Periodized training, 7-day training weeks fit nicely in the base building phase. It would be difficult for most of us to maintain the hard effort of race-specific training without the physiological benefits of rest.

Although my take-away may change over the last 14 days of this program, there are a few things I’ve learned thus far about rapid progression training every day.

ONE. Keep it slow. Lydiard says no run should leave you feeling tired. Running 1 to 1-1/2 minutes per mile slower than your typical training pace is critical. It goes back to the rule of only one stressor at a time. The rapid progression of mileage is the stressor for this training phase and there is no room for speed.

TWO. Eliminate Excuses. If you want to succeed at any program, you have to get rid of whatever might tempt you to fail. Get yourself out there and just start moving.

THREE. Refuel properly. Running this slowly changes thirst. You may find you don’t get thirsty so much during the run although the dehydration happens all the same. I’ve found myself very dehydrated several hours after the run.

FOUR. Create a meaningful goal. The person who knows what he wants to accomplish will accomplish more within that time. Clarity of goals gives you added incentive and motivation. Doubling or tripling mileage in just a few weeks takes a lot of effort and commitment. The more committed you are to the goal, the more likely you will succeed. Once again, this is where running coincides with life.

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3 thoughts on “Let’s Do This Thing: the Lydiard Buildup Program

    1. Thanks so much. You’ve been so supportive!! My plan is to take a couple of days off before I go back to school June 22nd. Through the 3 weeks of school, I’m not sure what kind of schedule I’ll have so hopefully I can rearrange the mileage and maintain. That will give me at least 10 or 11 weeks of good base building. If your races are over, maybe its a good time to give it a try?? Thanks again for reading!!

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      1. At this point I feel like not taking rest days would translate into a lot of easy runs, and not enough speed training. I really need a couple of rest days from running after a couple of hard runs. After I feel I’m done with speed work, I might give it a try to get to a higher weekly mileage and eventually get to maintain it. I am looking forward to reading how this goes for you, especially further down the road, so please do post about it when you’ve reached some conclusions.

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