I got into a debate about theories of training in a post entitled A Conspiracy Of Silence – Part I: Training, by Allan Besselink, a PT in Austin. I got there via one of those crazy LetsRun threads.

As far as I could tell, he claimed that the conventional wisdom about training was wrong and that there was a “conspiracy of silence” keeping the truth from being known. I became involved because I pointed out that the analogy he drew — that the earth was flat until people figured out it wasn’t, which I had read about in, I believe, a wonderful book about Agincourt (made famous in Henry V) entitled Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England by Juliet Barker.

Anyway, I thought the initial posting was long on theory and histrionics and short on specifics, particularly about what this new theory was all about. I got the general picture, i.e., you train in 2 to 3 week cycles because the anaerobic system is the first to go and you need to maintain it throughout training.

In part, he was speaking of upping mileage too quickly and causing injury. Hardly a revolutionary concept. But to the other part of the types of training, I just couldn’t get an answer from the guy. At most he referred to two types of workouts for marathoners, Marathon-Pace and Intervals. (And no junk miles.) But when I pointed out that, for example, “intervals” with only 1 variable (pace) and not distance, recovery, and number was useless, he figured I was trying to get a free training-plan from him.

He suggested I buy his book. I’ll pass. I engaged in the discussion because I thought it interesting. I tend to take a Daniels approach to things. So each of the various types of speedwork has a purpose, as do long runs. I think I understand the purpose of each. As far as this “new” idea is concerned, as best as I can figure it eliminates the base-building phase (although I’m not sure whether that’s to minimize the chance of injury or because it’s effort taken away from the quality workouts one needs to maintain anaerobic fitness) and has quality days and rest days. Daniels, of course, has three quality days a week plus recovery runs at a decent pace (which Daniels thinks have a specific purpose). But instead of the long-run quality stuff one does Marathon-Pace for some unspecified distance, which gradually increases.

In fairness, one of his followers said that you put long runs, tempos, repeats, and intervals all in a two-week cycle, which you repeat year-round (or at least in your 24 training period) and that the paces improve over time.

But my experience is that I can get my pacing on the track pretty fast pretty quickly and well before target races. A premise of Daniels is that your target pace for a workout is your current fitness (and you can get that number from his charts or from RunWorks). The point is not to run the workouts as fast as you can but as fast as necessary to stress the system on which you’re focused in that workout. Going faster is a waste and increases the risk of injury.

Back to the original point. Year-round “intervals” (at 10K pace of some unspecified distance, with unspecified recovery and in an unspecified number — all available in the book), runs at MP, and lots of rest. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but that’s old-school thought.

Of course, in the end he said the article was “not about training.” Maybe I expected too much.

Edited to add: Re-reading this, I think my frustration was that before I could process the principles, I wanted to know the meaning of certain key terms he used. Also, I see that a couple of useful comments have been added to the post.