Whether you're looking at a 5k race in a six weeks, or a marathon in six months, chances are you're going to have a training plan. Today I want to talk about the big picture of training: the best way to progress your training from the beginning of your training cycle to the end.
There are generally two schools of thought on how to approach a training cycle, the Pyramid or the Diamond...
The Pyramid model is based on the idea that you begin with a large aerobic base, transition to strength work, add in speed work, and then peak and sharpen at the end of the training cycle. Graphically, it can be represented in a pyramid shape.
In contrast, the Diamond model focuses on improving all aspects of performance at the same time. You should begin progressing all areas of training from the level you are at currently, and continue progressing every area throughout the training cycle so that each component is at its highest level of development for the race.
The Pyramid model has been the traditional approach to training distance runners, but lately the progression-focused Diamond model has gained a following.
Among its chief proponents is Scott Simmons, a several-time National Cross Country Coach of the Year and coach to several top post-collegiate athletes. Simmons details much of his belief in the Diamond model in his book Take the Lead: A Revolutionary Approach to Coaching Cross Country, which he co-wrote with Will Freeman.
Simmons believes that "we do not have to train [the aerobic and anaerobic systems] exclusive of each other, or in separate phases as the pyramid model suggests," but rather should train them simultaneously as the body adapts and progresses in fitness.
So which approach is the best? Like anything, there are arguments to be made either way. I believe, though, that the Diamond model offers several specific advantages:
Also, I would encourage anyone interested in this topic to check out Scott Simmons' book, which is available at Amazon.