Note: To me coaching is all about stewardship, using the knowledge and experience I have gained over 40 years as a runner, and 10 years as a coach, to help others pursue their running goals. So rather than publishing a book you have to pay for, I am publishing it here on my blog, free for all (runners and coaches alike) to read and enjoy, maybe learn something from it, or potentially have it prompt you to look at something from a slightly different viewpoint. If any of those happen, mission accomplished.
When designing a training cycle for a runner, we want to find a way to build fitness and then hone that fitness into an ability to run a specific race or races at our peak or maximum performance (hence the name of this book).
I have developed what I call the “Hadley Liberty Training Cycle” to best accomplish this mission. I use the word liberty in the title because of the cycle designs resemblance (see picture above) to the torch on the Statue of Liberty.
The typical Hadley Liberty Training Cycle is between 12 and 24 weeks long, but can be modify if needed to fit other time frames.
The Hadley Liberty Cycle is made up of 4 training phases that are designed to bring about an athlete's maximum performance for a goal race or sub-set of races.
In this chapter I’ll discuss each phase in general and how it all fits together and then in the Chapters 7-10 I’ll dedicate a whole chapter to each phase to discuss it in greater detail.
The training cycle typically starts with the Regeneration Phase that occurs after the goal race of the previous cycle. The purpose of the Regeneration Phase is to allow the runner to recover mentally and physically from the last training cycle before beginning serious training for the next goal race. After a long training cycle the body and mind need some time to rest & recharge their batteries in order to be ready to begin hard training again.
The length of time needed for a Regeneration Phase depends on many factors including how long the last cycle was, how hard and long was the last goal race, and how the athlete feels mentally and physically. Typically the regeneration phase will last anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks in length. The runner should not move on to the Base Phase until they feel recovered and mentally and physically ready to resume serious training.
The Regeneration Phase is made up of rest days, short easy runs and light cross training (if desired). The Regeneration Phase does not include any stress workouts and short easy runs are done only to promote recovery and maintain some level of cardio-vascular fitness and adaptations to running.
Note: If a runner is coming off an extended break from training or has been in a low level maintenance running mode for a while, then a Regeneration Phase is not needed and the athlete can start their training cycle with the Base or Fundamental Phase depending on their exact situation.
The purpose of the Base Phase is to re-introduce stress workouts into training and slowly transition the body back into a base unit structure. Stress workouts during the Base Phase are kept to more moderate in difficulty with targets/goals kept broad and soft, and recovery is kept ample and conservative. Following a Regeneration Phase the body will have regressed slightly in its cardiovascular fitness and adaptations to running, so the Base Phase provide the runner with a period of training to transition back into hard training and build back up their cardio fitness and adaptations. It can be hard both physically and mentally to go from resting immediately into full training mode so the Base Phase provides us with that needed transition.
The Base Phase can last anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks in length and as a good rule of thumb it generally lasts the same length as the Regeneration Phase did. So if we take 2 weeks of Regeneration Phase after our goal race from the previous training cycle, then we can figure on roughly a 2 week Base Phase to follow it. The reason for this is that the longer the regeneration break the more time needed to build back fitness and adaptations. In rare cases when the runner is coming back from an extended break the Base Phase can be lengthened to 6-8 weeks in duration to provide a larger window of opportunity to get re-accustomed to stress workouts and rebuild basic fitness before attempting more focused training.
Note: sometimes a runner stays in a maintenance mode of training for an extended period of time (do any one of a variety of reasons such as work, life, etc). Often this maintenance level of training resembles a Base Phase. If a runner is getting back into training seriously again after a period of maintenance training then they can skip the Regeneration and Base phases and start their training cycle with the Fundamental Phase.
The Fundamental Phase is the 3rd phase in our training cycle and it is the longest phase. The focus of the Fundamental Phase is on balance and on improving the fitness of the runner in each of the 3 main categories of running fitness: speed, stamina and endurance. As such the stress workouts in a Fundamental Phase are balanced in frequency with regular workouts from each category.
A Fundamental Phase uses macro-cycles to build a sub-set of fitness within each category of fitness (speed, stamina and endurance) and then leverages and builds upon the fitness gain/adaptation in the next macro-cycle. The exact look of the Fundamental Phase will differ slightly depending on the runners strengths and weaknesses and on the length of their goal race(s) that training cycle. We will explore those difference in greater detail in Chapter 9. The Fundamental Phase is a good opportunity for a runner to work on a weakness in an area that may be holding their development and future potential.
The Fundamental Phase of a training cycle usually last between 6 and 12 weeks in length and is usually roughly 50% of the training cycle as a whole.
Note: Runners who do not have a specific goal race they are training for, but rather are seeking continued fitness growth over a long period of time may opt to stay in a Fundamental Phase for an extended period of time breaking it up periodically with a short Regeneration and Base phase and never going through a Specific Phase.
The Specific Phase is the last phase in our training cycle and it takes the balanced running fitness established in the fundamental phase and builds it to a peak for a specific goal race distance. The stress workouts in a Specific Phase focus more heavily on the specific demands of the goal race and transitions general running fitness into specific fitness.
What the Specific Phase looks like depends on the length of the goal race, the strengths and weaknesses of the runner and any specific features associated with the goal race (i.e course, weather, etc.). In the Specific Phase our mix of workouts shifts to focus more heavily on the categories that includes our goal race pace, and other specific workouts are added to provide additional training in areas critical to the goal race itself.
A good example of this is in a specific phase for a marathon race, where we will have the runners do more long tempo runs at or near marathon race pace in order to get more familiar and comfortable with it and develop a good sense for it. And we'll begin to add in more quality into long runs to get the body and mind use to running at quicker rhythms while tired and lower on glycogen. We also do more runs on course that resemble our goal race course to prepare the body for its demands.
The Specific Phase usually last between 4 and 8 weeks in length or roughly a third of the training cycle as a whole.
Note: In general the Specific Phase should not be extended beyond 8-10 weeks or the runner risks a degradation in the underlying fitness of areas not included as often in the Specific Phase stress workout mix, and this degradation can cause a cascading effect on other areas supporting specific race needs.
Ok, so that is an overview of the Hadley Liberty Training Cycle as a whole. Each phase will make more sense as we discuss each in greater detail in the next 4 chapters.