Base Building Final Phase: Converting Anaerobic to Aerobic

If you ask newlyweds how well they like being married just one week after the honeymoon, their answer may be quite different from the answer given one year later. For me, stories evolve. Not to say an event is not exciting in and of itself, but usually the journey is what makes a good tale.

And so it was that I was somewhat vague in my review of the Lydiard Rapid Progression Base Building Program last week. We were not yet at the end of this tale.

At this same time in 2011, I ran 19 miles for the week and rode my bike 50 miles. I was recovering from my last major injury – a stress fracture. It was also week 5 of an 18-week marathon program that peaked at 40 miles 10 weeks later.

This same time last year, I ran 25 miles in 5 days of running. It was the first week of a fall marathon program that would peak at 50 miles/week.

For many years, mileage has remained conservatively “low” in my world, and I was skeptical of pushing the historical limits of peak mileage.

To complicate matters, the Lydiard program is considered rapid progression – as opposed to the slow buildup recommended by coaches today.

Most marathon training programs peak 20-25 miles-per-week higher than the miles-per-week at the start of the program. In other words, the program may begin around 20 miles per week and peak at 40 miles/week over about 15 weeks. I picked up the Lydiard Rapid Progression Buildup at 20 miles/week and ended at 66 miles/week just 4 weeks later. This was the perfect place to stop.

The Lydiard program continues for an additional 4 weeks to reach a peak of 100 miles per week. It will go on without me. Adding just under 20 miles per week to the peak mileage of my last training program was as far as I wanted to go. Running more than 70 miles/week is a magnitude more in terms of stress on the body and time devoted to running.

The rapid progression of mileage, 38 days of consecutive running combined with peak mileage was beginning to wear me down. This became obvious when I finally took a rest day last Monday and realized I was tired, and there was a nagging pain on the top of my foot.

Most stress fractures for me have occurred post-race. After surviving the training and the race, only then would my body fall apart. I was quite sure it would be the week after this program ended that things would take a turn for the worse. Fortunately, they did not and the last and final phase of base building can safely begin.

Many coaches will tell you to increase the pace during the last half of base building. Jack Daniels, PhD (Daniels’ Running Formula) suggests adding 6-8 strides x 20 to 30-seconds to 3 or 4 runs per week. To one degree or another, they all follow the same guidelines for gently adding speed.

In week 5, my slowest pace had naturally increased by 15-30 seconds per mile. This week my slowest effort has increased 30 seconds to a full minute faster than the slowest pace of 6 weeks ago. By awakening the fast twitch muscles with the tune-up of strides or repeats, easy will continue to be faster.

Even a relatively slow speed, defined by the Lydiard program as the Maximum Steady State, can be anaerobic running when you initially begin the conditioning phase. As your fitness improves, the speed that was anaerobic before is now high aerobic.

John Davies, Olympic Bronze Medalist in the 1500m distance and one of Arthur Lydiard’s stable of good runners, wrote a list of training considerations to be added to the booklet provided on the Lydiard Running Lecture Tour of 1999. Several of these 21 considerations were specific to aerobic/anaerobic development:

Balance must be maintained between aerobic, anaerobic and speed development.

It is a fallacy that anaerobic develops speed. In fact it counteracts speed.

Training can be done too fast or too slow, too much or too little, at right or wrong.

All middle distance and distance athletes require;

(a) A high aerobic threshold,

(b) Anaerobic development,

(c) Speed, and

(d) Co-ordination.

One development follows another. Training needs to be systematic.

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