The 200-meter dash is a challenging event to train for and race. While natural speed is your number-one asset in this or any sprint event, you cannot afford to skimp on endurance work as you may occasionally be able to with in the 55 or 100 meter dashes. Also, running the turn, which you do not have to do in the 100, is a skill unto itself. Therefore, speed, strength and technique are all vital in the 200-meter race.
Longtime Baylor University coach Clyde Hart, who coached Michael Johnson to multiple world records and Olympic Gold medals, recommends that 200-meter sprinters — especially those who also run the 400 — do several distance runs per week in the preseason, from 15-minute cross-country runs to 30-minute easy jogs before hard track sessions. This will not only allow athletes to train harder owing to better overall conditioning, but also help them better survive the multiple rounds and heats of the 200 that are characteristic of late-season championship meets.
Hart advises against sprinters going all-out in practice. Instead, he suggests doing repeat runs at or above race distance at a pace 25 to 50 percent slower than all-out 200-meter race pace. Examples include 16x200, 4x350, 5x600 and 5x300 uphill, with all distances in meters. As the season progresses, the number of repetitions and the distances they cover are gradually reduced, with a commensurate increase in pace to better simulate racing conditions.
Getting out of the starting blocks quickly is absolutely critical in the 200 meters, as is practicing accelerating in the first 40 to 60 meters of the race once out of the blocks and rising to a stand-up position from the starting crouch. Unlike the 100, the 200 starts on the curve, so starts should be practiced here, allowing the athlete to learn to hug the innermost part of his or her lane. Hart advocates doing anywhere from six to 10 starts in a session, two to three times a week, in addition to the other work performed.
Weights and Drills
A lot of the training that makes for a faster sprinter takes place away from the track. In particular, sprinters should do a significant amount of weight work — two to three times a week in the preseason and early season, less as the important end-of-season meets approach — as well as speed- and quickness-oriented drills such as quick steps, box jumps and high knees. Be certain to enlist the services of a coach experienced in these elements if you don't already have one, and make ample use of resources on the Internet.
L.T. Davidson has been a professional writer and editor since 1994. He has been published in "Triathlete," "Men's Fitness" and "Competitor." A former elite cyclist with a Master of Science in exercise physiology from the University of Miami, Davidson is now in the broadcast news business.