This article is written by Jim Hiserman, author of Developing Distance Runners, and Developing Distance Runners Volume 2, which is released today. Click here to read all articles written by Jim Hiserman.
Recently, while researching material for “DEVELOPING DISTANCE RUNNERS, VOL. I”, I decided to include a chapter on “IDENTIFYING AND TRAINING 800m SPECIALISTS”. The information included in the chapter revolved around categorizing athletes according to body types and sprint speed that grouped 800 types into 400/800 types, 800 types or 800/1600 types. In addition, the training involved various dosages of Neural type training (sprint speed development, elastic/reactive/general and maximum strength development, sprint mechanics and movement enhancing work) mixed in with the various forms of metabolic work best suited for each individual type of 800 runner.
The research information for the book centered on mixing Neural and Metabolic training methods, according to the bio-motor strengths of athletes This seemed to be in stark contrast to the training of many of the high school programs I was familiar with. Most of the programs I viewed trained their 800, 1600 and 3200 runners primarily the same: largely through high volumes of aerobic capacity and aerobic power development aimed at increasing velocity at Vo2Max (vVo2Mx) with some strides or 150’s thrown into some of workouts at the end.
During this same time, I was involved in mentoring a high school distance coach who embraced my beliefs on mixing in Neuromuscular Training to increase the maximum sprint speeds of his developing athletes, in parallel with their anaerobic and aerobic abilities.
Thus, both Vol. I and Vol. II of DEVELOPING DISTANCE RUNNERS included a chapter dedicated to identification of 800m runners and the use of specific training modes best suited for each of the two or three types of 800m runners identified. This information was intended to help emphasize that training 800m runners SHOULD NOT be biased towards the aerobic training methods measured by vVo2 alone.
Instead, workouts might best be based on the specific needs of different types of athletes, which can be determined by the type of physical attributes they currently possess. I also could see where maximum sprint speed (MSS), in which 400m speed can be loosely based on, and all its’ determinants (sprint mechanics, elastic strength capabilities and force producing capabilities), could play a significant role in the year-round training of either 400/800, 800 or 800/1500 types.
The thought that development of maximum sprint speed (MSS), in unison with Speed endurance and Special Endurance work, could bring about performance improvements over the 800m distance occurred to me many years ago when faced with planning for a multi-event athlete.
While coaching at UC Irvine, in 1993-4, I had an incoming heptathlete who had personal bests of 17.2 at 100m Hurdles, 27.8 at 200m and 2:29 for 800m. I decided to emphasize the development of speed and speed endurance to get her times over 100h and 200m lower. I decided to train her to run 400m Hurdles in weekly meets as her only training for 800m. Although she kept asking to run an 800 in a meet so she could improve her 800 time, I simply told her that her 800 would “be there” at the right time. I blindly trusted what I had witnessed years before with Mann and Gittens at WSU. She finished the season at the Conference Championships by winning the Heptathlon, running 14.72 over 100h, 26.1 over 200m and 2:16 for 800! Clearly, emphasizing speed development and 400h training seemed to work well for improving not only her 100h and 200 performances but also a huge improvement over 800m with virtually no purely aerobic work.
Witnessing, on two separate occasions, how 400m hurdle training seemed to be linked to the development and/or improvement of 800m running played a major role in adopting an 800/1600 training program for developing athletes based on mixing Neural and Metabolic methods to develop overall athleticism, speed and efficient movement qualities in high school distance athletes.
Earlier, through specific research on successful indicators for 400 hurdle performance abilities (which appear in my “The Art of Long Hurdling”), I discovered that there are three types or categories of 400m, hurdlers:
- The Speed/ Special Endurance (400m) types,
- The Technical/ Speed-Rhythm (110HH) types, and
- The Pure Rhythm (400h) types (capable of running 400 hurdles within or under two seconds of their 400m best times but lacking in technique and maximum speed abilities).
Current research of elite 800m runners by Dr. Gareth Sandford categorized successful 800m runners according to bio-motor abilities similar to those of 400 hurdlers mentioned above.
The three categories being:
- The 400-800 types (Max Speed and Special Endurance types with high Max Sprint Speed abilities and fast 400m times)
- 800m types (expressing slower speed ability than the 400/800 types, but fairly fast 400m ability and decent, but not elite 1500m abilities) and
- the 800-1500m types (competitive abilities at both 800 and 1500m racing but much slower max sprint and 400m speeds).
Thanks to Sandford and his extensive doctoral work with elite 800m runners: “Maximal Sprint Speed and the Anaerobic Speed Reserve Domain: The Untapped Tools that Differentiate the World’s Best Male 800 m Runners“, new light can now be cast upon how to determine the types of 800m runners and, how to best target the training for each type of 800m athlete.
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