The Hard-Easy System

A course for racers who want to train better and get faster.

The Hard-Easy System

The best training system yet for all endurance athletes.

Its founder, Brian Clarke, has developed the course by teaching it since 1979 when he started training recreational runners for the annual Honolulu Marathon.

The course is based on Clarke’s experience as a runner on the University of Oregon’s track team under legendary coach, Bill Bowerman.

Clarke’s experience at U.O. taught him the power of the Hard-Easy System.  He has written three books on the subject and has developed this course as a way for student-athletes to quickly adopt the system as their own.

Hard Easy System Courses:

The Brief Course

The Brief course is a 26-minute video, covering 11 lessons that summarize the gamet of hard-easy system concepts so you can apply them to your current training and racing.  See the sylabus below for a quick course overview.  Click here to watch the course video.

Coversations on the Hard-Easy System.

A 2-hour video program covering the brief course (see above), plus a recorded, in-class conversation between coach Clarke and Charlene R.

Charlene is an avid 35-year-old recreational distance runner, who is learning the distance running game.

The full course consists of five units.  View each part by clicking the following links:

Unit One.  A Marathon is an Exertion Structure.

Unit Two.  Pace Exertion and Race Ability.

Building Race Ability.
The Rules of Right Exertion.
Tempo Intervals.

Unit Three.  Understanding Effort and Energy.

Workout Effort and Capacity for Exertion.
Optimizing Workout Effort.
Scheduling Workouts.

Unit Four.  Training Periods and Training Cycles.

Optimizing Shock.
Establishing New Workouts.
Becoming “Fully Able” to Train.

Unit Five.  The Marathon Revisited.

One-on-One with Coach Clarke.

A 2-hour in-person (or zoom) session with coach Clarke, reviewing the brief course (above) and addressing issues you raise in relation to your training and racing.  Coach Clarke is an excellent listener.  You’ll come away with a recorded conversation you can review, plus new direction for improving your personal training and racing.  

The Brief Course (in a Small Group).

A 2-to-4-hour, in-person (or zoom) session for two, three, or four students.  Each student will have an opportunity to raise their individual training and racing issues as a case study for all to understand and learn from.  Fill out the pre-program questionnaire to indicate your interest in being part of the next class.  

The Long Course (in a Small Group).

Ten 90-minute, in-class sessions (in person or on Zoom) over a 10-week period.  This course is an excellent primer for anyone who is currently coaching distance runners or those who aspire to being an endurance coach, regardless of the sport.

Employing an inquiry problem-solving approach to teaching and conceptual details from the depths of the hard-easy system, Clarke assists students to identify personal training problems, and to find solutions in the system context.

Class size: no fewer than four students and not more than five students.  Organize your own group of friends to do the course with you and reduce your tuition by 30%.  

Course Syllabus:

Introduction. How to Read Your Body.
Lesson 1.
A Workout is an Exertion Structure.

Part 1. Pace Exertion and Race Ability.

Lesson 2. Building Race Ability.
Lesson 3. The Rules of Right Exertion.
Lesson 4. Tempo intervals.

Part 2. Understanding Effort and Energy.

Lesson 5. Workout Effort and Capacity for Exertion.
Lesson 6. Optimizing Workout Effort.
Lesson 7. Scheduling Workouts.

Part 3. Training Periods and Training Cycles.

Lesson 8. Optimizing Shock.
Lesson 9. Establishing New Workouts.
Lesson 10. Becoming Able to Train.

Conclusion. The Marathon Revisited.

The Hard-Easy System - Full Introduction

(Note, This course on the Hard-Easy System is intended for intermediate, advanced, and master level athletes and anyone aspiring to effective coaching.)

The Hard-Easy System is based on the premise that the fundamental ability-building units of a training program are workouts. You must do workouts to improve your racing ability. Otherwise, why train? You might as well just go out and race.

      • In the Hard-Easy System, every workout is made up of two ingredients: effort and energy. You can’t do a workout without exerting an effort, and you can’t exert an effort without encountering your sensations of running energy.
      • Your body is a separate entity from your thinking, ego-mind. Your body sends messages to your mind in the form of physical sensations, such as pain, abundant energy, or audible breathing, including many other effort and energy sensations.
      • You are capable of directly experiencing your sensations of effort and energy during a workout. Effective training decisions are based on an understanding of these physical sensations. You don’t need complex instrumentation to train effectively.

Understanding physical sensations requires conceptual interpretation. That’s where the hard-easy system comes into play. The system is fundamentally conceptual, i.e., it’s based on words with precise meanings that bring understanding to your running experience.

      • The concept “pace exertion,” for example, has four essential ideas: a) the effort necessary, b) to sustain a pace, c) from moment to moment, d) during a running workout. When one of those ideas is missing, the concept “exertion” is missing, too.
      • Scales for Measuring Conceptual Ranges. The course on the Hard-Easy System makes extensive use of scales that measure pertinent aspects of your running experience. A scale is a complete range of five or six levels that describe a running phenomenon.
      • The pace exertion scale (see above), for example, has six (lowest-to-highest) levels: mild, light, steady-state, threshold, ragged-edge, and maximum. You don’t have to use every level in every workout, but you should be aware of the levels and their uses.
      • Understanding “pace exertion” will enable you to structure workouts that build a full complement of racing ability for your next goal race. Thus, being fully able to race separates duffer-athletes from athletes of equal talent who always finish first.

    Our learning project in this course is to use the hard-easy system to understand the following five features of the training process:

        1. Steps that must be taken to improve your ability. For example, you must purposely structure the exertion of a workout to build an intended racing ability.
        2. Mistakes in thinking and practice that lead to injury, illness, and exhaustion. For example, doing progressively harder workouts during a training period.
        3. Principles that experience indicates are true about training and racing, e.g., a very slow warm-up during the first ten minutes reduces the risk of injury.
        4. Relationships between factors affecting your training decisions, e.g., the faster you run at the beginning of a workout, the greater your risk of injury.
        5. Questions that must be answered for progress to be made, e.g., how can you optimize workout effort, so your racing ability grows rather than languish?

    Thus, you can learn to train effectively by paying attention to your sensations of effort and energy, and thereby learn how to read your body. Some say it can’t be done; we believe this course on the hard-easy system can impart the necessary skills and knowledge.

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