Book Review: Arthur Lydiard: Master Coach

12 messages
06/09/2004 at 14:05
Just finished the latest book by Garth Gilmour. I have read most of his previous books about Lydiard and his training approach. Master Coach is in my opinion a revised version of Run to the top and tells Lydiard's story.

Just for those who do not know about Lydiard. In order to become fitter Lydiard started running and experimented a lot with training, he ran low mileage and extreme mileage, did speed work and hill repeats, tried different nutrition, shoes and participated in the marathon.

He wrapped up all his conclusions and came up with the Lydiard principles. The main emphasis on his training is to run mainly aerobic and not like in the past the anaerobic intervall session. However, that does not mean Lydiard was against interval training! He recommends to run 100mpw steady pace (aerobic running). Unfortunately, he not be very precise as HRM weren't widely available. He also came up with the idea of periodisation as he often was frustrated with his own results by not being able to peak for the right event.

Master coach focuses more on Lydiard's life, what got him into running, starting as local coach spotting talent, training Olympic champions and finally becoming the most sought after coach.

Lydiards claims that champions can be discovered in every country. Back in Aukland, New Zealand he "found" Snell, McGee, Halberg, etc. and turned them into gold medal winners. Later on in his careers he tried to do the same in other countries but failed to do so as the athletic organisation wasn't supporting his long term plan, they were more after a short term fix. He coached in Mexico, Finland, Denmark, Venuzuela, etc. At the same time his training methodology was adopted in many other countries, Australia, East Germany, South Africa, Korea etc. and other great coaches like Bowerman, Wetmore, Clohessy, Squires etc. adopted his technique.

After reading the book, I was quite impressed in Lydiard's approach. In order to spot talent, he did not just went through result sheets or web sites. He traveled through little villages in Australia and see the Aborigines running, did the same in Finland by organising a local race and try to spot the talent, same in Mexico with the indians in high altitude. In addition, he wasn't cycling on his bike and followed the training groups, he ran with the group and led most of the training. Quit often the athletes could not keep up with him or couldn't face the cold conditions.

Overall a fascinating read. However, one chapter focusses on the doping and I came to the conclusion that his views on doping are rather naive. Especially when he refers to the East German (Cierpinski) or the Finns (Virren), in my view he didn't understand the full political context and the systematic doping approach/experimentation. Similar to China, Lydiard says they were successful because they used his training running extreme mileage. Another chapter mentions Regina Jacobs achievements, as it turned out she used steroids in order to make the Olympic team.

Obviously the book has much more to offer, really worth reading.
06/09/2004 at 15:16
Thanks URR, I've been meaning to get a Lydiard book.
06/09/2004 at 16:20
URR, where did you get your copy? I remember it being in AW, but I went on holiday before I had a chance to order.

Excellent review. I need a book review for our club newsletter;)
06/09/2004 at 16:29
Got it here.

Special Yorkshire man super saver tip :) You can also get a new used copy, will save you a few quid!
06/09/2004 at 23:08
Great stuff URR. I was always impressed with how pragmatic (and uncluttered with sports science) his approach was. Your description of how he found athletes to coach was very interesting. I've always wondered whether the coach maketh the athlete or whether the athlete maketh the coach. Eg Wilson and Ovett, Cerruty and Eliott, or Coe and Coe.

Its also interesting how great coaches got started. In the mid 60s as a schoolboy I was part of a small group from Worksop Harriers coached by the sports master from the local comprehensive. His name was George Gandy. Perhaps I should have stuck with him!
06/09/2004 at 23:43
It's a very interesting book and Lydiard is without doubt a very clever guy. After reading the book I am much more impressed in the way he developed athletes and what kind of tricks he used to get them motivated. In addition he really looked into every detail. For example, he designed a high mileage running shoe, was very careful about food. When athletes had problems with hamstring injuries they had to do ballet dancing routine to strengthen joints and ankles.

I believe Dr. Kostre almost copied his approach. On Sunday I spoke to one of my club mates, who was born in Ethiopia. According to him people just don't run or jog there, only if you can afford to to, say you are a student or you are paid by the government. Hence, they can't just pick up random runners, they have to have some talent too. For example, they discovered Bekele while he was playing football. Hence, if you search long enough and develop them properly, you may end up with championship runners. There are possibly many who practice the wrong kind of sport!

07/09/2004 at 06:42
Thanks URR, was talking to SiT about this book over the weekend & sounds intersting :-)
07/09/2004 at 14:52
Thank you URR. Great review! Started reading mine.
08/09/2004 at 22:35
nice review URR
09/09/2004 at 00:16
URR, sorry to kidnap the thread but have you read Maffetone's books? Do you recommend them? I am trying to read more about base training. Can you recommend any books? Thank you!
09/09/2004 at 05:37
No I haven't read his books. As far as I know he was briefly mentioned in Lore of Running, but I must check again in which context. It looks like his position is easy aerobic exercise to improve overall fitness and loose weight.

There are so many books around. Right now I am reading a book about Frank Shorter. Interesting to understand his training, thinking and how his coach has influened him. While studying at Yale he was coached by Bob Giegengack, who was US head coach for the 1964 Olympics.
09/09/2004 at 20:23

Are you reading Olympic Gold? Have been trying to track that down for sometime but have only found it on offer for silly prices ie 100 usd. Where did you get it if that is what it is if you don't mind me asking?


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