Someone today on a thread asked me the question "I'm sure I read somewhere that don't you run your sessions flat out and your long runs easy/steady?" To which my response is below - it's just a short abstract of how my own views on training should be structured in terms of LTAD.
Cross13- I did a while back which I guess is where you read it. These days as the article says I generally try and run my reps with a few seconds to spare. They generally look very quick to people (hence teh reputation) because after a few years of experimentation I know pretty much exactly where my limits are and what running at pace "X" should feel like. Also the sessions I do tend to be quite tough sessions which I know are do-able but you most might not realise it. 8 x 1000 off a 60-70 second 200m jog recovery @ 5k pace is a lot more intense than the track stuff most runners do- it's partially a framing effect (I'm only working at 5k pace for around 24 minutes whilst others might be doing up to 50 minutes) and partially the effect of just going out there and doing track-work each and every week.
My training philosophy is perhaps unsurprisingly constantly evolving and these days I'd put forward three key ideas for long-term development aside from the obvious gradual long-term build up of mileage. 1) Whilst slower running is a great introduction to the sport and encouraging participation and for recovery (on some days I do end up running 8/9/10 mm) and easy running (about MP+1 minute) is good for the bulk of your running the thing that's really important (far more than sessions) is putting in lots of runs at roughly LT + 15-30 seconds just as the Kenyans do which puts a really strong aerobic emphasis which pays off in the long term, 2) alactic speed development- this can be strides/drills 30-90m flat out - the ability to run at speed is crucial.
These are quite at odds with lactic tolerance and VO2 max development which are perhaps the cornerstones of "performance training" as opposed to "development training" - whilst there is certainly a case in the medium term for lots of sessions at goal race pace and they are definitely needed to run well I don't think that they necessarily help long-term development a huge deal- that said some VO2 max is essential just to ensure you're training at the correct speeds for your current ability but over the long-term I'd advocate the two above. Running at race pace is crucial and there are some long-term efficiency gains possible but I think these can mostly be achieved over about 2 years.
and some more stuff from earlier in response to Bazza stating that for a young athlete who can run 5:05 right now that he probably already has the speed to run 4:50 but it's is endurance that he needs to work on. Bazza often contributes to threads like this and has very solid opinions.
ore of an overarching philosophy question here. In general I completely agree with your policy for an athlete attempting to run fast this season (e.g. if I was given an older athlete I would tell them hit the endurance very very hard). But increasingly from talking to the top guys and just plain seeing from personal experience having speed is absolutely key. Aerobic endurance can be developed but the ability to have the sort of pure speed to be able to run 60 seconds for 400m comfortably is the sort of thing that needs to be continually developed over the space of about 10 years. Realistically for someone to be a truly serious athlete (e.g. sub 3:50/14:00/29:30) over anything shorter than the half/marathon you need 53 (maybe 54) repeatable 400 speed (as opposed to one-off e.g. benefit coming from start etc or huge lactic tolerance) and something in the low 1:5xs for 800. That sort of speed for most athletes just isn't there naturally and takes a lot of work to bring out if at all.
I guess the point I'm making is that yes he clearly has enough speed to run 4:50 and probably enough speed (without knowing your profile at all!) to run something in the low 4s. The question is if he wants to be a serious athlete whether he has the speed to do so? One of the barriers I'm coming up against right now is that flat out I have we reckon maybe 57 and really stretching it 56.x high 400m speed and have just run a relatively easy 4:11 1500 and 32:15 10,000 - if I long-term wanted to run much under 4 though my current speed needs to be improved realistically and whilst extended strides etc. help a lot the sort of speed needed is very hard to gain (some coming from flexibility etc.)
Is odd training a young athlete as you need to combine improving pure/repeatable speed with the huge aerobic base needed to run very fast 5 and 10,000s whilst at the same time doing a great deal of work at current race pace so that they can perform at their best at the moment. I'm doing a huge amount of my sessions at 72-80 per lap rather than working on 1500 or less pace stuff partially because in terms of a long-term marathon switch next year the very fastest pace I would ever need is 72 and that would be so far beyond my dreams we're in cuckoo land- but the ability to run relaxed at 72 will help run relaxed over the longer distances.