Arthur Lydiard

arthur lydiard1 arthur lydiard2 arthur lydiard3

Arthur Lydiard was a very influential running coach from New Zealand and has been acknowledged for making running or jogging popular in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It is sometimes said that he invented jogging! He coached a number of Olympic medalists in the 1960s (Murray Halberg, Peter Snell and Barry Magee) and had a significant influence through other coaches on other notable New Zealand runners such as John Walker (the first to run more than 100 sub-4 minute miles). He was born 6 July 1917 and passed away on 11 December 2004 at the age of 87. He has received a number of awards in New Zealand (OBE, ONZ) and in Finland (where his coaching led to a resurgence of Finnish distance running in the early 70’s). Runners World magazine named him as coach of the century in their millennium issue. As a runner, he competed in the marathon at the 1950 British Empire Games, finishing thirteenth with a time of 2hr 54m.

Training Philosophy:

Arthur Lydiard believed in breaking up the year into different training periods. The base or background period was the endurance phase that consisted of at least ten weeks of maximum mileage that the runner can do to increase the aerobic base (the 100 miles/160 km a week was considered optimum; the longer runs would be around 20 miles/32 km). The distances were run at a speed that was just under the anaerobic threshold. The aim is to build the endurance base for the next phases. Next came the hill phase which primarily consisted of uphill bounding or springing exercises to build strength generally three times a week, while still doing some endurance aerobic base training. This would last for around 4 weeks. The next 4 or so week period was called the sharpening phase in which some anareobic interval and speed training is added so the runner can run fast. Next the hard training is backed off and the concentration is on remaining sharp for competition.

John Hawley at wrote: “I doubt whether any coach will ever have more impact on the training practices of endurance athletes than this New Zealander. He revolutionized training with regard to the volume of work he thought an athlete should perform in their conditioning phase. His programs were simple, based on a consistent, thorough and direct application of hard work. Lots of it.

The Lydiard Pyramid:

lydiard pyramid

Video on Arthur Lydiard:

Arthur Lydiard Quotes:

Miles make champions

No one will burn out doing aerobic running. It is too much anaerobic running, which the American scholastic athletic system tends to put young athletes through, that burns them out.

Athletes need to enjoy their training. They don’t enjoy going down to the track with a coach making them do repetitions until they’re exhausted. From enjoyment comes the will to win

Train, don’t strain

It’s just a matter of understanding what’s necessary and discipline yourself to do it

Volume + time = champions

Altitude training is a gimmick

My runners never ran slow

You don’t see any rest days on the schedule do you?


Involvement With running Shoes:

Arthur Lydiard is often cited as being a advocate of minimalist running shoes, however in most of his books he advocates the use of padding in shoes to reduce impacts: “…check that they have good rubber soles that will protect you from the impact..” (pg 7¹) and “Well-rubbered shoes are essential to eliminate jarring effects” (pg 212¹). He also believed that forefoot strikers were “more susceptible to foot troubles” (pg 116¹) than those who flat-foot or heel strike. In an interview with RunWashington, he said “We like flexible shoes, to let your foot function. Shoes that let your foot function like you’re barefoot – they’re the shoes for me, as long as they have some rubber underneath to alleviate the jarring.” So he obviously believed that the foot should function like it was barefoot, but with padding to absorb the impacts.

In late 1960’s Lydiard teamed up with the EB Shoe Company in Germany to produce two shoes: Lydiard Marathon and Lydiard Road Runner:

ebmarathon ebroadrunner ebroadrunner2

The shoes were launched to the running community, mostly via mail order in the early 70’s. At the time they did retail for USD$32, which was almost double the price of a comparable shoe, so they were not widely used; but they did have a good reputation amongst the runners that used them. The shoes were made of soft one piece Kangaroo skin leather upper; were very roomy in the toe box; and were well padded under the heel. These shoes are not like the minimalist shoes that Lydiard is allegedly often quoted as supporting. Remarkably, the Brütting company still manufacturers them the same as how they were manufactured from the early 70’s. They can be purchased at Manufactum’s website: UK, Germany & International.

Lydiard also did collaborate with Converse in the mid 80’s which produced a lightweight, but still padded under the heel running shoe. A unique feature of these shoes at the time was that they were made on a curved last.

lydiard advert

Arthur  Lydiard Converse

Did Lydiard advocate minimalist shoes? It might depend on the definition of a minimalist shoe. He did advocate a  light weight flexible shoe (which could be considered minimalist), but he also advocated and designed shoes that were well padded in the heel for impact absorption (which probably could not be considered minimalist). The EB Lydiard Marathon is lightweight, but padded and EB Lydiard Road Runner is well padded. The Converse range were lightweight, but still well padded in the heel and would not meet the minimalist criteria of zero drop. Lydiard himself was apparently a heavy heel striker.

Arthur Lydiard on Foot Orthotics:

He wrote: “The straight shoe-banana foot mix is the main reason many runners need orthotics in their shoes, trying to get balance in unbalanced footwear.” (pg 67²). Hence, the design above of the Converse shoes being on a curved last. He is also frequently quoted as having said in lectures, paraphrased:  “it’s the shoe that would need the orthotics …. if the shoe was built correctly … and it fits your foot correctly … then you wouldn’t need orthotics”. (See: curved vs straight lasts). He was widely considered not to be very supportive of the need for foot orthotics in runners, believing that the shoes were the problem.

Critics of supportive and cushioning running shoes and foot orthotics often quote Lydiard and fall into the trap of the appeal to authority logical fallacy.

Most Recent Book:


Running With Lydiard; 2nd Ed; Arthur Lydiard & Garth Gilmour; 208 pages; May 2001

Since the success of his New Zealand athletes Snell, Halberg and Magee at the 1960 Rome Olympics, Arthur Lydiard’s name has been synonymous with the best training methods used by the world’s top middle and long-distance runners. Instructing runners in Finland, Mexico, Venezuela, Denmark, Japan, the USA and New Zealand, Lydiard has continued to refine his methods, and this manual contains information on exercise physiology, diet, injury prevention and cure, discussion of Lydiard’s methods and revised training schedules.


amazoncom amazonuk amazonca fishpondau fishpondnz

Other Books:

Lydiard, Arthur; Gilmour, Garth: Run to the Top. London: H. Jenkins. 1962

Lydiard, Arthur; Gilmour, Garth: Run, the Lydiard Way. Auckland: Hodder & Stoughton. 1978

Lydiard, Arthur; Gilmour, Garth: Jogging with Lydiard. Auckland: Hodder & Stoughton. 1983

Lydiard, Arthur; Gilmour, Garth: Running to the Top (2nd Edition ed.). Germany: Meyer & Meyer Sport. 1997

Lydiard, Arthur; Gilmour, Garth: Distance Training for Young Athletes. Germany: Meyer & Meyer Sport. 1999

Lydiard, Arthur; Gilmour, Garth: Distance Training for Women Athletes. Oxford: Meyer & Meyer Sport. 1999

Lydiard, Arthur; Gilmour, Garth: Distance Training for Masters. Oxford: Meyer & Meyer Sport. 2000

Lydiard, Arthur; Gilmour, Garth: Running With Lydiard (2nd Edition ed.). Meyer & Meyer Sport. 2000

NZ On Screen Documentary on Arthur Lydiard and his Training Approach:

On the Run

Related Topics:

Brütting Running Shoes | Laser Running shoes

External Links:

Wikipedia entry | Lydiard Foundation | Obituary in the NZ Herald

Lydiard Foundation Twitter Feed:

Arthur Lydiard on eBay:

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1. Lydiard, Arthur; Gilmour, Garth (1978). Run, the Lydiard Way. Auckland: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

2. Lydiard, Arthur; Gilmour, Garth (2000). Running With Lydiard (2nd Edition ed.). Meyer & Meyer Sport. 2000

Primary author of this page: Craig Payne About: University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, dad. Follow Craig on Twitter and Google+
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