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Healthy Intelligent Training - Keith Livingstone (Running Book Review)

Updated on October 29, 2014

Arthur Lydiard is the famous New Zealand running coach who trained Olympic winners for decades. He took the world by storm when several of his athletes won medals in the 1960 Olympics and then returned for more medals in 1964. He did not formally write down his own training principles, though, so those who trained under his guidance have had to pass on the tradition. Keith Livingstone writes perhaps the most accessible book available on the topic thanks to providing a modern context for the decades old wisdom of Lydiard. Livingstone's book is endorsed by the Lydiard Foundation, which makes it as official and authorized as a book about the late Lydiard can be.

Lydiard is known for advocating running long distances in training. This has given him a reputation favoring high-mileage approaches to distance training. Livingstone explains the fundamental truth to this, but takes his time detailing the nuances of the Lydiard program, which included plenty of hills, strides, time trialing, and rest to go along with the long runs. Livingstone explains running in terms of a pyramid, which he illustrates in the book. The crux of the pyramid and his book: the wider the base, the higher the peak. In other words, how well an athlete sharpens for optimal performance depends on how much aerobic mileage has been included as the foundation. The book provides clear visual aids to summarize important ideas, such as the aerobic aspect of race distances and why the training pyramid consequently requires aerobic running as its base.


The HIT diagram's color coding clearly illustrates that aerobic running should make up a majority of training. Interestingly, this correlates with the aerobic emphasis in distance running events. A marathon is nearly a 100% aerobic effort while even a 5K is still over 90% aerobic. It makes sense that a runner's training should primarily be aerobic. The book explains in detail how intense training is not maintainable due to stress on the body, as it deprives the body of oxygen, but aerobic running can be done in bulk, as it provides oxygen to the body. Before one jogs away thinking this means just do a lot of easy running, a deeper look into Livingstone's presentation shows that all the other elements of training are necessary, but just do not make up the bulk of the training load. Lydiard is credited for being one of the first coaches to put an emphasis on periodization -- organizing training into different cycles that build fitness toward peak performances or milestones.

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Other sections of the book include training plans, injury prevention, and biographical information. These sections add flavor to the book and show how Lydiard principles trickle into the coaching and culture of present day running. Color photos and graphs make the book easy on the eyes. The complete work is neither too scientific nor too anecdotal, which also means it is not over-long. It is appropriate for adults and high schoolers. This book more than any other book available emphasizes the obvious and most often forgotten ingredient: simply do a lot of running. Where other books try hard to cover all aspects of running, Livingstone narrows his topic enough to let the reader close the book and walk away with the clear concept that one should run a lot.

© 2014 Joe Dowgiallo


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