A few good questions came up in the comments section after my last article “How to improve your 400m & 800m time” as my answer was kinda long I thought I would write an article as a reply.
How do you decide when to switch the focus to one (speed) or the other (endurance)? Do you put much stock in the 4×100+4sec formula? IOW, once someone reaches the theoretical best 400m time based off their 100m, do you chase the extra thru more speedwork? Is a runner that is at this point and not getting quicker at the shorter distance quietly pushed toward the 800m?
1. Using the concurrent training method the focus remains on both speed and endurance. The focus may be skewed to one or the other during a specific training phase. e.g: if we are in a G.P phase obviously the focus is a little more on the endurance side but speed sessions are always included. Our training week is typically only 3 tracks days, as I believe a masters athlete would not recover before the next session if more were included. Its more important to be recovered from each session than trying to add another session into your training week. I would probably only add 1 maybe 2 more track session per week to an high level/elite athlete. Our week is broken down to a speed day, an endurance day and a hill day. The endurance day will never consist of long slow repeat 400’s or something similar. It will always include some quality work.
2. I don’t agree with measuring your 400m time off your 100m time. I think you can apply your 200m time but this will not be accurate for a good 800m runner coming down to run a 400m. You can have a very good 200m runner that will destroy an 800m runner of 200m. However they could have very similar times in the 400m. Does the 200m runner not have enough speed endurance for the 400m? Or does the 800m runner not have enough speed for the 400m. You have to apply your strengths to the 400m. If you have good 200m time then you have to go out hard and use your speed. The 800m runner that has good speed reserve but not so great speed would be foolish trying to hang on to the 200m runner in the first 200m. No matter how much speed reserve you have if you chew it up in the first 200m you will blow up in the last 100m.
We saw this a couple of years ago when LaShawn Merritt went out at to high a percentage of his 200m time. He blew up in the last 100m and Karani James ran over the top of him. All the endurance training in the world wouldn’t have changed this. Its called race modelling.
3. I think there is definite distinction between 200/400/800m runners however just because someone has reached their full potential, so to speak, over a particular distance doesn’t mean its time to move up to a longer distance. I believe you need to enjoy the distance you are training for and to some extent your personality needs to suit the distance. What if you have reached your 400m potential and someone suggests doing 4x600m at 85%. The 400m runners I know including myself would be saying, no thanks I’l stick to being slower over 400m. I have seen many good sprinters that should move up to run 400’s based on there 200m and 100m times however they would never cope mentally with the work load. You can’t give someone a big heart. 😃 If your only focus is to win or to have a world record there are plenty of events in masters athletics to choose from that don’t have a lot of competition. I won’t name them here for chance of offending anyone but I am sure you can work it out. I can recall years ago I had one guy in my age bracket that was just much quicker than I was ever going to be. He beat me in every race for about 3years. Should I have changed to another distance when I loved the sprints?