Wednesday, 29 November 2006

“Coaching Middle and Long Distance Runners” - Introduction

Posted by speedygeoff on Wednesday, November 29, 2006 with 4 comments
[Edit. The article in full can now be found at]

Article by Nic Bideau

The training structure I use to coach athletes does not actually involve anything that hasn’t been used before. I would describe it as strongly influenced by the type of work used by many Australian, British and New Zealand athletes in the 60s and 70s involving running high volumes of over 160km per week with the primary focus on aerobic conditioning. This type of training yielded huge successes for amongst others, Ron Clarke, Brendan Foster and John Walker, yet for one reason or another has tended to be neglected today.

The one area where I would say we are much more advanced than athletes of that era is with recovery and the control of the workouts. Today athletes employ a host of techniques including ice baths, sports recovery drinks, regular massage and physiotherapy sessions that assist athletes to recover from bouts of hard work and allow them to maintain a more consistent high volume of good quality training for longer periods.

Hard running on the track or fast long distance runs are now more controlled to achieve very specific aims with the use of heart rate monitors and stopwatches to assist us to enforce the principles that Lydiard was teaching runners 40 years ago — to train mostly at levels of intensity that are aerobic and to limit or accurately control the amount of anaerobic activity in training.

The training is only one key element responsible for the success of, among others, our two leading Australian distance runners, Craig Mottram and Benita Johnson. But I would add that just as relevant is (a) the environment they train in, (b) the planning undertaken (including their competition program) and (c) the belief I have in them to run as well as they have. Getting fit in training is certainly critical but I have certainly seen cases where despite being incredibly fit, a lack of confidence and belief in their ability to compete well has cost an athlete in important races. The right training helps to build these elements but the structure of the training groups they exist in and the very carefully planned racing program they follow certainly enhances this confidence to take the athletes to a very high level. But that’s a whole other article. For now, I’ll stick to an explanation of the general training structure I advise athletes to carry out.

Key elements
• Regular long runs
• Fast distance runs at around the anaerobic threshold
• Intervals or repetition work
• Speed work
• Recovery runs
• Gym sessions

Nic Bideau "Coaching Middle and Long Distance Runners: A Commentary" - Modern Athlete and Coach, Volume 44, Number 3, July 2006.

To be continued …


  1. Hello Geoff

    The articles you post and the blog itself is very informative, interesting and entertaining. Just wanted to say thanks and although I know it is not written for me a suspect that there are many people outside your group reading and enjoying it.

    Much appreciated, thanks.

  2. Thanks Scott. It's all because I am retired and therefore have lots of spare time. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

    I appreciate your feedback, thank you.

  3. When I first read this article, I was somewhat suprised how open Nic was to share his coaching methods.

    It's a great insight into how elite athletes such as Benita and Craig have achieved their success.

  4. Can't wait to read the rest.

    Thanks for putting it out there.