Nonlinear periodization attempts to address all of these shortcomings by mixing together the various major training stimuli throughout the training cycle. The presence of strength and speed training at all times keeps the muscles and joints well adapted to the stress of hard running, thus minimizing injury risk. It also gives runners more flexibility to race when it suits them.
Because their running fitness is always well rounded, they can peak for races fairly quickly by increasing the training load and emphasizing race-pace training. There is no need to wait for layer upon layer of fitness components to be added one by one. Linear periodization still has its defenders, though. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, they say, and indeed it is hard to argue against the tremendous success that runners all around the world have achieved through Lydiard-style training.
Perhaps the greatest virtues of Lydiard’s system are that it limits the risk of overtraining and enables runners to peak right when they want to. When I asked former mile American record holder Steve Scott, now the cross-country and track coach at California State University San Marcos, and a dyed-in-the-wool Lydiardite, how he ensures that his runners peak for their biggest races, he replied: My belief is that, when you have started track-specific training, you have started the peaking process. So I have my athletes do the same thing I did with my own training. I would do mostly threshold-type runs, hill repeats, keep my mileage up, and stay focused on strength and endurance as long as possible, and then introduce event-specific training maybe six weeks out from when I wanted to peak. One of the problems we see today is that people are running race-pace intervals almost all year long, and it does not provide you with a chance to peak.
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