gordonpirie.com - Gordon on "Training" & "How to run a race"

gordonpirie.com - Gordon on "Training" & "How to run a race"

Post by John Gilbod » Thu, 09 Dec 1999 04:00:00


The whole book is here.

Dr John Gilbody.


In this chapter, we will examine the specifics of how to prepare
yourself to compete over the full range of racing distances -
from 100 metres up to the marathon. The specifics of training for each
group of distances may be different, but the basic
principles remain the same, regardless of whether the athlete's race
lasts a few seconds or for several hours. The goal of training
is to prepare the body to cover a particular distance as quickly as
possible. The key to a sound training programme is
understanding what is required in order to accomplish that goal.

How To Run A Race

The purpose of training is, of course, to race over your speciality as
quickly as possible. In order to understand exactly how to
go about training for a race, we must first know what a race is and how
to run it.

If you came from outer space, knew nothing at all about running, and I
challenged you to a race, how would you go about
preparing? Let us say that you have a month to get ready. I have shown
you the starting and finishing lines. It is irrelevant what
the distance is - you, the Spaceman, have no concept of Earth distances
anyway. The answer to my question as to how to train
is to stand at the start and run to the finish line as fast as you can.
Then you will take a rest, and do it again and again until you
have become good at it. On the day of the race, our Spaceman will set
off as fast as possible in an attempt to get away from his
competitors. He knows from his training what pace he can endure. He
knows that if it is difficult for him, it is likely to be difficult
for the others, too. The harder he runs, the greater his chances of
defeating the others. If another runner hangs on to him, he
knows that he either has the other runner at his mercy, because this
fellow is*** on, or, alternatively, the other runner is
dangerous because he is attempting to pass and take over the pace
himself. If it is a "hanger on" situation the Spaceman will
attack, and accelerate in an effort to detach himself. If, on the other
hand, it is a "cheeky challenger", the tactics must be
different. Let him take the lead for a spell. If the fellow is strong,
you must keep up at all costs. Keep up and gather yourself for
a finishing sprint. This is the hard part. You must wait and be very
alert, for your competitor is going to do the same thing. You
have to strike first to get a lead of a few feet or yards, you hope,
before he himself attacks. If the other runner gets his sprint in
first, you must go with him instantly, striving to wear him down and
finally pass him in the last few yards.

Thus, in a race, one must never give a competitor an advantage. A good
example of this happening occurred in the World
Record Mile of 1985, in which Sebastian Coe allowed Steve Cram to steal
a considerable lead in the second lap. Coe then
used up his reserves to catch up again in the third lap, and as a result
lost the capacity for his legs to sprint, and hence the race.
You have to keep in contact with your closest challengers the whole of
the distance, Mr Coe!

Interval Training

Let us now look at the fundamentals of Gerschler's classic Interval
Training Protocol, in the hope of shedding some light on this
clouded subject; and in the process do away with the myths that have
grown up around it.

Gerschler's system embraces all distances from 2,000 metres down to 100
metres. His statement that you can achieve full
development in winter training through the use of only the three
distances of 100, 200 and 400 metres has led to the popular
misconception that Gerschler and his champions only trained in this way.
Wrong! Even Rudolf Harbig, World Record Holder
for 400 and 800 metres, ran stretches of 2,000 metres in his
preparations for races. This is a typical training day taken from
Harbig's Diary:

40 mins easy running; 1x2,000m; 20mins jog; 2x1,000m; 12mins jog;
2x600m; 12mins jog; 2x300m; 8mins jog; 1x200m;
6mins jog; 1x100m; 10mins jog.

Interval running, properly applied, is not only scientifically sound,
but is also the most efficient and quickest way to bring an
athlete up to a high standard. Improperly applied interval training has
led to this time-honoured and well-proven system being
maligned and blamed for athletes experiencing all kinds of difficulties.
This is because careless application of interval running can
damage runners. On the other hand, when it is applied intelligently, its
results can be nothing short of miraculous. The plain truth
about interval running is that it serves the purpose of developing the
heart, circulation and muscles better than any other system.
Its beauty is that it does so in a fraction of the time required by long
slow distance (LSD) training.

The longer stretches of race distance together with middle distance are
an indispensable part of Gerschler's system, which is
now well over half a century old. It preceded all other such systems of
training, and it should be appreciated that Gerschler was
the forerunner of a long line of experts who have put forward his ideas
as theirs.

Much of the difficulty many athletes have with interval training is that
they approach it like a competition. Gerschler's motto for
interval running was: "Take it easy". As I started my faster runs in an
interval session, he always called to me: "Langersammer
(Slower)!". You should take an interval session in your stride, running
well within your capabilities. We cruised around the
faster sections of our runs with controlled power. As a result, even
after 80x200 metres I was still able to go for a run around
the forest in Freiburg for another 3 miles or so, and then be ready for
more later in the day. It was a very enjoyable way of
running, but involved a lot of sweat!

The following factors should be carefully controlled in an interval

1. Speed. The pace should be such that the athlete is able to complete
the whole session without undue difficulty.

2. Distance. The distance run in this type of training should not be
longer than the athlete can comfortably achieve at the
required pace.

3. Repetitions. The athlete should not be expected to repeat a distance
during a training session more often than he is
comfortably able to do.

4. Continuous motion. The athlete should run at a comfortable pace
between fast runs to assist in the recovery process.

5. Variation. Distances and speeds should be varied from session to
session to maintain interest.

6. Technique. Training sessions should provide the coach with an
excellent opportunity to monitor his athlete's technique.

During an interval session, a given fast stretch should be run at least
10 times, with the interval between runs being determined
by the time required for the athlete to recover physiologically. This
can be calculated by monitoring the athlete's pulse rate
during the recovery interval. The aim is to run with sufficient speed to
stimulate a highest pulse at the end of the fast stretch of
180 beats per minute; that is, 18 beats in 6 seconds. Recovery at this
top end of the heart's effort occurs so rapidly that the
best way to count the pulse rate is electronically. Failing this,
measure the pulse rate at the wrist, on the left ***, or on the
carotid artery (one only!), using the fingertips. An actual 180 maximum
heart rate may be indicated by a 17 count in the first 6
seconds, because of the rapid initial drop of heart rate.

The interval should be run at a continuous trot, and with the same
rhythm that is used in the fast run; the breathing rhythm should
also be identical. This assists greatly in the recovery process. The
interval's length is again decided by the heart's behaviour.
When the heart rate has fallen to 120 beats per minute - 12 beats in 6
seconds - the recovery is complete and the next fast
stretch can be run. As one might expect, the interval after the first
few fast sections will initially be short, and then progressively
lengthen to a standard interval as the heart takes on the full workload
of the training session. A typical workout, say 20x200
metres, might see a set of intervals as follows (for a particular
athlete at one stage of his development):

No.1 x 200m : 25 secs interval.

No.2 x 200m : 35 secs interval.

No.3 x 200m : 45 secs interval.

No.4 x 200m : 55 secs interval.

The next 14x200m run might require a standard interval of 60 seconds. As
fatigue sets in after this, and the "rest" interval
required extends to 65 seconds, stop running!

Progress is indicated by an improvement in the required rest interval
(i.e. it gets shorter), and also by an increase in the number
of repetitions which can be run before the onset of fatigue. In
addition, progress should be accompanied by an ability to run the
fast section at a greater speed without breaking the top pulse rule
(i.e. keeping the maximum pulse rate below 180 per minute),
which should occur with ease, and without extra effort.

The usual times taken to run 100 metres vary from 20 seconds for the
beginner down to 15 seconds for the highly trained
athlete. The equivalent figures for 200 metres are 40 and 30 seconds,
and for 400 metres 80 and 60 seconds, respectively.

The number of repetitions which can be run varies from 10 up to as many
as 40. Even more can be handled by a world record
runner. Before the latter state is reached, however, it will be time to
progress to other types of training (described later).

Interestingly, during interval training, most development occurs during
the interval; this was the conclusion reached by
Waldemar Gerschler and Professor Reindel at the Freiburg Sports
Institute after many years of research on thousands of
subjects. Consider this quote from an article by Gerschler himself,
which appeared over thirty years ago in the magazine "World

"Tips From The Tutors


Athletes are often uncertain about what distances they should cover in
training, and ...

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gordonpirie.com - Gordon on "Training" & "How to run a race"

Post by Oleg » Sun, 12 Dec 1999 04:00:00


> "Gordon Pirie will return.........."

Thanks for part 4!
Pretty useful website you have too!

psst - if you want to get rid of that stupid Yahoo-geocities java
box, I just found a neat trick...