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Coach Mel’s 60 Minute Workout: Lydiard Hills


Arthur Lydiard was a pioneer coach in distance running during the 1950s and 1960s and today his philosophy is widely adopted in modern day coaching for all levels of runners. The program consisted of a 12 to 24 week base training phase (or longer, the philosophy dictates that the bigger the aerobic foundation, the bigger the peak that can result), a second four to six week phase of hills and strength, then a final four week phase of anaerobic training before peaking.

In addition to a robust aerobic phase of training, which is essential for distance triathlon, the hill phase is likely the most effective phase for any beginner to advanced triathlete. A very strong aerobic base, coupled with the strength and leg speed from hill repeats, will result in the preparation needed for a strong run off the bike in Ironman. Without a sufficient aerobic phase, there can be a higher risk of injury and burnout, therefore, focusing on an aerobic base and hills strength is a good place for any triathlete to start.

This hill run workout could become the meat and potatoes of the “speed” component for triathlon training. These workouts translate very well to fast speed on flat terrain and help build leg speed and turnover for racing. For two weeks, run a one to two minute hill of five to eight per cent grade at a fast pace. Run gently back down to the bottom. Recover completely then repeat four to five times.

After two to three weeks of the beginning circuit, or when it seems appropriate, advance to the following workout. Find a hill that takes about one to two minutes to run up at a five to eight per cent grade where it flattens off at the top. Run up at a fast, even pace, then jog on the flat section easy for an equal amount of time before turning and running back down the hill at a fast, even pace, leaning into the hill and allowing the stride to open up. Recover completely at the bottom, do a few short strides of 15 to 20 seconds, then start up the hill for another complete circuit. Repeat three times and add one up/down circuit per week.

The Lydiard Method stresses proper work to recovery ratio. For this workout, and for advancing the workout from week to week, pay attention to how the body is responding. Without adequate rebuilding there is no need to do more or work harder. It is better to do less work and recover completely than overload work and miss subsequent sessions due to inadequate recovery.