Hill Training the Lydiard Way

In the late 1950’s and in the 1960’s the legendary New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard espoused his training principles, as a result of his experiments on himself as a highly competent distance runner.

Following a number of weeks of high weekly mileage to establish a good aerobic level, the heart will have increased in size and stroke volume. A transition phase is now necessary prior to moving on to the graduated interval training work vital to good performances at distances ranging from 800 metres to 10,000 metres and beyond. Lydiard’s principles resulted in great success for New Zealand runners in major championships in the 1960’ and 1970’s.

The transition phase involves primarily hill training plus light interval training. Lydiard suggest a hill up to 800 metres in length with a gradient of 1 in 3, with flat areas top and bottom. It is useful to find a hill of this gradient with a nearby or parallel hill with a lesser gradient for the return journey, to avoid downhill pounding.

Following a 10-15 minute warm up, the runner ascends the hill with a bouncing action, not concerned with speed, but concentrating on relaxation and spring off the ball of the foot. You will appreciate that to carry this out for up to 800 metres is demanding. The runner jogs along the flat section after the top of the hill then runs quite fast on the moderate downhill section (for advice on downhill running, see Running the Highlands tips on this topic). This is followed by a recovery jog to the foot of the steep hill. Here the runner carries out 4 or 5 hard efforts on the flat section at this point. These can be from 50-200 metres. The hill is covered 4 to 5 times and should be followed by extensive light jogging.

The workout, particularly on the first two attempts is tough and one should wean oneself into it. Two days a week of the session over a six week period (Lydiard suggested daily sessions)  should see the runner in great shape for good performances following further developmental work.

Mel Edwards. October 2007