The 400-meters run is one of track and field's more exciting events. Consisting of exactly one lap on an outdoor track, its primary requirement is basic foot speed. However, it is long enough in duration -- about 43 seconds for the best in the world to roughly a minute for a talented high-school girl -- to require a degree of aerobic fitness that the shorter dashes do not.
According to U.K. Athletics coach Brian Mackenzie, at the level of energy derivation, the 400-meter run is 62 percent anaerobic and 38 percent aerobic. He suggests doing repeat runs of 30 to 700 meters for a total of 200 to 3,000 meters to best develop the anaerobic system for this event. Additionally, he calls for repeats of 1,000 to 3,000 meters for a total of 3,000 to 8,000 meters -- about two to five miles -- to develop the aerobic endurance needed to allow sprinters to maintain high speeds as they come down the final straightaway.
A quick start in the 400 meters is not as critical as it is in the 100 or 200 meters, but it is still extremely important. The 400 is the longest event on the track in which starting blocks are used, and learning to take advantage of these requires considerable practice. Clyde Hart, the Baylor University coach who guided Jeremy Wariner to Olympic gold in the 400 meters in 2004, suggests doing 6 x 40 meters out of the blocks to work on both the start itself and early-race acceleration around the curve. Because it addresses basic speed, this is an anaerobic 400-meter workout.
Anaerobic Speed Workouts
All of the cardiovascular fitness in the world won't help you maximize your potential in the 400 unless you work primarily on the anaerobic aspects of training. With this in mind, Hart suggests doing speed workouts totaling about 1,000 meters, such as 10 x 100, 6 x 150 or 5 x 200, each including five to 10 minutes of rest in between sprints. The goal here is not only to increase leg speed, but also to develop a tolerance to the lactic acid that is an inevitable byproduct of anaerobic muscle metabolism and therefore resist the onset of fatigue late in a 400-meter race.
Aerobic Endurance Workouts
Hart stresses the need for 400-meter runners to develop aerobic endurance, stating that the ability to utilize more oxygen translates into a shorter recovery period between sprints in an anaerobic workout and the capacity to do more work in such sessions. He recommends doing steady-state -- that is, moderate-intensity and continuous -- runs of 15 to 45 minutes, as well as interval sessions such as 6 x 800 meters on a cross-country course with three minutes of recovery in between repetitions.
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