Unfortunately, as a high school coach early in my career I had instant success in the short sprints. This success came in the form of multiple school records in the 100, 200, 400, 4×100, and 4×200. Along with these records we placed in the top three at State or better in the 100, 4×100, and 4×200. Now to even the most casual observer you might ask the question “why was this success unfortunate?” The answer is simple: my team had a serious lack of flexibility in what events we could perform at high level. We couldn’t run a decent 4×400, 4×800, 800, 300LH, or 1600. In addition, our kids didn’t have the strength to qualify to state in the 200 dash due to the number of rounds an athlete has to run to get to the state championships. Now looking back on my training in my first couple of years I have to apologize to my kids I coached. I need to ask for forgiveness because I didn’t give them the tools to succeed in a number of events beyond the 100 Dash.
Why does a 400 based training system help to deal with the previously mentioned problems? If you look at a high school event list a large portion of the events contested require the same energy system development to be competitive at the 400 Dash. Arguably the events that fit this energy mold include the 200, 4×200, 400, 4×400, 300/400LH, 800, 800 sprint medley, 1600m sprint medley, 4×800, 1500, and 1600. As you can tell that is quite a list.
A 400 based training system is also useful to provide your kids the overall fitness to run more than one or two events in a track and field meet. It gives them the strength to repeat hard efforts while at the same time not eliminating their abilities to run the 100 dash. There is also the psychological benefit that you get from this training. Your athletes know they have done hard work in practice and the first time they step to the line the fear of 400 dash will be less. Allowing them to attack the race and have a greater chance for success the first time running the event. A successful first run at this event is important so that you can sell this training throughout the rest of the season or athletes career.
As a high school coach this training is very helpful in allowing for your kids to move up an event or two in distance. Don’t forget distance coaches, this will also allow your runners to move down an event. I have had a number of sprinters “discover” they were actually mid-distance athletes and “distance” runners find out they might be long sprinters.
This system is not magic. You will have to sell the workload every step of the way before, during, after practice, and at track meets. Most importantly if you decided as a coach this is the route you want to go, you MUST have your kids trained so that when they do compete in a longer sprint event they are prepared making it a successful, albeit tough experience.
From my own personal experience since changing to this type of training we have broken our school records in the 100, 400, 300LH, 800, 1600, 3200, 4×100, 4×200, 4×400, 4×800, and 800 Sprint Medley. Now I know I am just one coach at one local high school, but we have had a number of other area schools adopt the 400 based training system with similar success.
In future blogs I will try to explain how you can implement this type of training successfully.