Here is a classic workout from my archives under the guidance of long time McGill coach Dennis Barrett.
We called them “breakdowns” for obvious reasons: 600-500-400-300-200. Recovery is “walk what you run” to a maximum of 400m:
- 600, walk 400
- 500, walk 400
- 400, walk 400
- 300, walk 300
- 200, walk 200
- This is a long to short program
- 800 meter runners can do this workout with jogging as the recovery
- This type of workout can be classified as a true “lactic acid” or acidosis tolerance – butt locking – extensive tempo workout. If you aren’t hurting by the 300m, you are going too slow
- During the fall, workouts are done in flats, but in the spring, spikes are preferred at the higher speeds.
- Each 200 meter segment is one second faster than the previous interval
- You can do this workout unassisted with a watch that beeps at every 200 meters interval with the desired target time.
- After completing this, you will gain the mental toughness and confidence required to run a 400m, as you become “strong as a horse”.
Long to Short vs. Short to Long
Of course, the speeds presented here are nowhere near what you need to run 48 point. Short to Long advocates are probably cringing in horror as they read these type of workouts. They would argue I should run 200′s in 22 seconds (or 100m in 11 sec) as being more effective. A 22 sec 200m PR means 400 meter splits of 23 and 25 respectively, potentially 48 seconds. If you are racing at 22 or 23 speed, training at 25-29 speed is considered useless.
Short to Long Coaches will agree you become “strong as a horse”, but if you are slow to begin with, that just makes you a strong slow horse, right?
Cathy Freeman, the 400m Gold medalist at Sydney 2000, doesn’t believe in training slower than her race pace. Her 100m tempo runs are never slower that her slowest race pace, which is around 13 seconds per 100m (derived from a 26 second half 400m).
Short to Long programs believe in either low or high intensity workouts. These medium intensity type workouts are just too taxing on the body with no benefit, and requires too much recovery before the next workout.
What worked for me may not work for you
On the other hand, Clyde Hart believes training slower can make you faster.
By the spring of 1992, I was able to complete the workout in 1:27, 1:10, 54, 39, 25 which lead to my 400m 48.36 PR. Note the 6 second differential in training and racing.
This type of workout reminds me of Roger Bannister’s workout of 10×440 yards in 64 seconds. He got down to 61 seconds per interval and got stale. He then took a break rock climbing, then upon his return, his 440 yards were down to 59 sec. This gave him the confidence of running the sub 4 min mile in 1956.
To contrast, John Landy was training (over-training?) with 600m slower intervals. But they both still ran 3:58 for the Mile.
Please post comments or suggestions below.