Training for the 800/1600m

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    magico on #22250

    How much mileage is sufficient for a 400/800 runner at the high school level? I understand that alot depends on whether the athlete is more speed based vs. endurance based, but is there a relative formula for making the determination? As a high school coach with a sprint background, I am constantly battling coaches who don't do speed work until the week of the state meet, have kids run 40+ miles per week whether they run the 400 or the 2 mile or don't know what speed is at all. I don't know how many times I've explained that 150s and 200s don't constitute true speed work. I tend to focus more on general conditioning than mileage since high school kids have such poor posture, they can't keep their form no matter what approach to training you take. Thoughts?

    Carl Valle
    Carl Valle on #22251

    The better the gpp….the better the program! :flaming:

    magico on #22252

    it's tough to do a quality gpp when you have to watch all your best athletes get injured by their incompetent soccer coach

    CoachKW on #22253

    I would have speed and power elements at all phases of a 400/800 runners program. Many backwards thinking coaches (many of which seem to get high school jobs unfortunately) think that doing quality work early in a program gets kids hurt, when in reality, it's making an abrupt switch from all distance (many times run too slowly to begin with) to almost all speed is what gets kids hurt because distance alone (notice the term alone before you rip me) does little to get you ready for speed events and the 400 and 800 are speed events. Yes, you do need a base or a GP phase for all events, but as McFarlane says: the base for speed is primarily SPEED (sorry to yell) :yes:

    I coudn't really site any formula for figuring out optimal volume, but I would say that you ought to be able to figure out what the athletes background is for a starting point. Then, I would map out your season long macrocycle with your scheme of work. I am a big fan of multi tiered training. Some endurance work is needed, but within the realm of "aerobic" work there is a wide range of running that can be truly labeled as such and it needn't be SLOW running. Slow training produces slow racing. That doesn't mean that every work out is done at max aerobic capabilities but you should be emphasizing some type of aerobic quality on most days.

    Magico, you have a true grasp of training concepts as evidenced by your comment regarding 150's etc. One problem you're facing is that of ignorance of physiology by your peers (loose usage of the term, I imagine). I have 400/800 runners do some form of true speed development 40's or 60's year round. What you're talking about is wanting kids to do work at race pace early in the season and that is what they SHOULD be doing.

    Somewhere in the early 80's speed became a four letter word. Some coaches were having all of their distance runners do interval type of training 4-5 days per week, plus trying to race and that was going too far in the other direction. It was breaking kids down and they weren't progressing in the 1600 and the 3200 because there was too much anaerobic work and not enough true aerobic development. So, in the US, we went the opposite direction and termed all training not done at or close to max speed as aerobic. As we all know, you need to be at or above about 60% of max to get any aerobic benefit yet you coudn't convince the less and slower is better crowd of that until you started seeing a rapid decline in high school distance performances starting around the mid 80's in the US. Ideally for the 1600 and 3200 runner to get better they would get to the point at which they could handle reasonably higher volumes AND an ample amount of quality track work at the same time before lowering that volume to induce the peak.

    In an attempt to try to put some hard numbers in my loquacious answer. I probably would not have a hs 400/800 runner doing long runs of over 6-8 miles. Most aerobic training would be as Mike described above in the form of tempo running (fast continuous runs) or fartlek (intermittent surging within a medium length distance run). You need some recovery type of run days but not that many in a week-depending on how many meets you have in that week.

    If I can help you in your mission to convince any coaches you work with, don't hesitate to ask. I have tried the best I can to educate as many other coaches as possible and this forum is incredibly informative so maybe you can steer some folks this way who really want to learn to help the kids they work with as much as possible because that's what we're supposed to be about.

    Hang in there, it's worth it!!


    dark-knight on #22254

    Very good points! I think what makes this a complicated issue is the different approaches involved in achieving good performances. In the case of mid distance running, this can be accomplished by increasing VO2 max (through volume and/or intensity) or by making oneself more efficient in other areas.

    In fact, just like the correlation between strength max. and performance IS NOT absolute, VO2 max and performance is not absolute.

    Other factors include: mental attitude (ability to tolerate pain), running economy (how efficiently one runs), and lactate threshold (fastest pace you can maintain without accumulating large amounts of lactic acid in your blood). A runner with a relatively low VO2 max, but high in these other performance factors, could outperform a runner with a significantly higher VO2 max but with poor running economy and a low lactate threshold.

    In other words, lower VO2 max values can be compensated with high efficiency and the ability to run at a higher percentage of one's VO2 max without accumulating too much lactic acid (high lactate threshold).

    The fact that H.S. coaches focuses on longer run come from the improving VO2 max view through volume. It is important to note that VO2 max is improved by training above 75% max. of heart rate. This heart rate above 75% can be achieved by increasing intensity OR volume. Having said that…Increasing VO2 by increasing intensity, as opposed to volume, seems to be more efficient.

    Not bad for a freaking 100m sprinter, huh? :saint:

    CoachKW on #22255

    As my athletes would say "dude, that's tight"

    Nice work

    My entrance was good, yours was better….

    Mike Young
    Mike Young on #22256

    Excellent posts guys. I just thought I'd add something regarding VO2 because it's been brought up several times in this thread…..development of VO2 max is FAR less important than development of lactate threshold for the 800m…'s really not even close. In fact, if I recall correctly, lactate threshold is a better indicator for success all the way up to the 5k.

    ELITETRACK Founder

    CoachKW on #22257

    Absolutely correct Mike. When you consider that lactate threshold is, as I understand it, only affected by training whereas Max VO2 can actually be improved by losing weight whether or not the loss occured as a result of training.

    An even more important factor as far as the 800 is concerned is lactate tolerance just as in the 400. You have to learn to continue to run fast when swimming in lactic acid. Threshold training helps that point come later in the race and lactate tolerance helps you to operate (both metabolically and biomehcanically) once you are there.


    dark-knight on #22258

    You guys are correct lactate threshold/tolerance is far more important for running under 5k. Also VO2 can be improved by losing body fat w/o losing muscle.

    This brings up a interesting question: Letâ??s say for the sake of argument that two athletes are equal in other factors (i.e. lactate threshold/tolerance, mental toughness etc.)…Will the athlete with the superior VO2 max have an advantage in the 800/1600?

    I have heard that just having a 10% improvement in VO2 can improve oneâ??s 5k time by app. 1min.

    How about the 800/1600? Maybe 10/30sec max. respectively?

    CoachKW on #22259

    I don't really think that a vo2 max jump would really affect the 800 that much because we are talking different energy systems. Also I suspect that the people experiencing such a jump would be relatively beginning runners so such a jump wouldn't be out of the question. You would see very minute jumps in max with a runner who has been training for a long time.

    dark-knight on #22260

    I believe you are correct about beginning runners having more of a benefit from a jump in VO2 max.

    On energy systems: It is true that all non-aerobic (anaerobic) activity puts an athlete in an "oxygen debt� which is made up by heavy breathing at the end of an activity. For example if an athlete were to run a 12 sec 100m sprint his body would require app. 6L of oxygen for total aerobic respiration. However the VO2 max during that 12 sec is 1.2L, and would incur 4.8L debt, requiring one to replenish that oxygen through heavy breathing. As he becomes better conditioned, his VO2 (and, of course, anaerobic threshold) improves and his oxygen debt lowers.

    In fact most athletes have a 10% greater VO2 max than the sedentary person does, and marathoners have a 45% higher VO2 max. This is one reason why an elite distance runner can do a workout like 16x200m in 24s without breathing as hard as a short sprinter trying to attempt the same workout.

    Hope it wasn't too wordy, just wanted to clarify the value of VO2 -assuming there is one of course 🙄

    dvunda on #22261

    I hate distance, i can't run more than 400 meters withought chocking and dying:mad:

    CoachKW on #22262

    For some, it's an acquired talent

    Are you an athlete?

    midpackmag on #22263

    while you fellas continue the discussion— i'm heading out the door for a 20miler— literally. who woulda thunk that running could be such a science?

    CoachKW on #22264

    Running is both an art and a science. As an exercise physiologist once told me "every successful coach is a scientist whether they know it or not." You have to understand the demands of the event before you can coach it well.

    Hope your run was a good one.

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