TRAINING: The Anaerobic Phase 1 – Hill to Track to Strawberry Fields

Lydiard’s Anaerobic phase generally consisted of significantly lower mileage than the preceding base (aerobic) and strength (hill) phases although morning runs continued to be encouraged as “maintenance runs”. The weekly long run also stays in the program (as the primary aerobic maintenance run) but must be run at less effort as building aerobic capacity is no longer the priority (trying to build anaerobic and aerobic capacity at the same time is much like pulling at both ends of a rope at the same time).

During this period you never stray far from speed and speed-workouts are encouraged on your “rest days”. For long-distance runners, however, a medium-long run (around 90 minutes) can also be retained leaving an easier day and four quality workouts. Of these only three should be strictly anaerobic. Only few athletes have a sufficient aerobic capacity and recuperative ability to handle more than three and for older athletes or beginners, recovering from two and a long run may be tasking enough.

My First Anaerobic Phase

The first form of anaerobic resistance that you want to build is the one that sneaks into your system slowly and starts shutting you down piece by piece as you struggle to cope with the mounting oxygen debt. The pace needed to achieve this is often referred to as VO2 max pace and for most athletes lie in the band between their 5k and their 3000m pace. This same pace would be common for tempos, and indeed tempos can be an ingredient of the first anaerobic phase and serves exactly the same purpose as intervals run at this pace.

5k Pace Session

I decided to start my first week with a workout at 5000m pace and then one at 3000m pace. Once done, I’d gauge whether I yet have the strength for a third session. To ease into it, I wanted to start with longer repetitions where I can take advantage of what I have already built (endurance) so I settled for 800m. I good rule of thumb is that the length of the session should never exceed the race distance of the pace you are training at and preferably should be a good bit lower. For some athletes 4-5k of quality work at any pace can be quite enough, but use judgment and quit when you’re starting to feel like you are leaving a race out on the track.

I thus settled on 6x800m @ 5k pace as a good workout adding up to 4.8k or just below the race distance for the pace I am running at (5k). Then I wanted enough active recovery to be able to complete the session, without having so much that the session would be too easy. I also wanted something that was practical to work with so settled for 400m which I guessed would take about 80% of the time jogging as running 800m at 5k pace. It was all a rough estimated, for I’d slow down more on the 400m if knackered and run faster if needed. One of the best ways of making a session a bit harder over time is to simply cut the recovery a bit, but only do so if it means you can still run the reps at the intensity you want, otherwise it’s a pointless exercise. If you want a long sustained effort, run a tempo instead.

Voices Within

My first day went well, after 2k warmup and some dynamics I tried 3 strides. After the third it was clear my left calf did not like sprinting one bit which may explain my trouble on the fast downhills (while I have none on the slow).

This didn’t affect my repetitions luckily. I came around the first 400m a bit fast as I felt the legs getting heavy very quickly. “This can’t be right for 5k pace”, I thought to myself, and looked at the Garmin. “3:01 pace”, ok, screeching brakes on and I eased off into the second still finishing in 3:21 pace (against target of 3:34min/km pace). I had to go easier in the next ones, recovering from my pace judgement and finishing the session with an average pace of 3:33min/km, a second under target. On the fifth I felt a twinge in my calf and said to myself (“ok, this’ll be the last one then.”). Once I started jogging another voice took over “it’s not bad, finish the session!” Given I had no problem doing the sixth; it shows how easily the body can deceive us into backing off and this is very having a training partner or a coach to spur you on is a great help.

3000m Pace Session

My plan for the 3000m pace session is not set in stone yet but I imagine I’ll either do a 2000m tempo at this pace (what Lydiard calls a “Time Trial”) or set of 400s with 200m recovery. With the 400m I would be able to run slightly further (I was planning up to 8-10) at this faster pace (3k pace is around 8 seconds faster per kilometre for me) and may get more of a feel for the workout.

On the other hand, having already done an intervals session, I think the tempo will provide a slightly better stimulus. The decision will rest simply on how the legs feel. If tired, go for the short 400m (or even shorten to 300m). If fresh, try the time trial.

Next up I’ll talk about the next sessions and my preparations for Wednesday’s Track Meet in Irishtown and my running the Strawberry Half-Marathon next Sunday.

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