Tag Archives: Tom Osler

Experimenting with Tom Osler’s Base and Sharpening Training

I previously mentioned reading Sky Waterpeace’s Lazy Man’s Guide to (Ultra)Marathon Running. While obviously not that lazy myself, Kindle Unlimited granted me free access to the Kindle version. The somewhat insightful book got me experimenting with keto, which was fine for the month I actively practiced it.

But Sky also harps on the writing and work of an accomplished marathoner and ultra runner named Tom Osler. Sky’s principles are based considerably on Osler’s principles. As an appendix, Sky included a 28 page booklet written in the late 60’s by Osler about his fundamental training approach called The Conditioning of Distance Runners. You can now find the booklet on Amazon and other sources.

Along with being a precursor to today’s gumroad e-books if you think about it… Osler’s booklet, however esoteric and outdated on the surface, outlines a sound approach that in some form has been both practiced and ignored in the decades since, to this present day.

There are two camps in endurance runner training. One emphasizes a healthy dose of recurring harder workouts alongside your easy and long runs from day one. The idea is that the harder, faster workouts are what makes you faster and fitter, that without regular fast running you cannot possibly get faster, and possibly even get gradually slower. This approach is far and away the most popular of the two, because people generally aren’t patient, and coaches traditionally have learned to always train this way (plus it’s harder to be hands on when all the pupil’s running is easy running).

The other camp argues to initially emphasize a large volume of (often exclusively) easy training, only introducing harder workouts after having built a sizable easy running base over months. The understanding that developing your slow-twitch aerobic mitochondria is what improves your natural fitness and performance over time, and that speed/tempo work should build upon that base fitness after it has been developed.

Let me throw some arbitrary labels on these two camps for ease of discussion. I’ll call the first camp “Speed and Base”, as the two are utilized in tandem each week. I’ll call the second camp “Base then Focus”, as the theme is you spend months running easy at first to build a base, then only utilize harder training when closer to the goal event(s).

Below are some examples of writers or coaches whose approaches fall into each of the camps. Again, it’s worth noting the lion’s share of coaches and writers traditionally fall into the Speed and Base camp. For them I could name dozens of coaches, but I’ll stick to four.

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