The 400 meter run is one of the main track and field sprinting events, along with the 100 and 200 meter runs, the 4 x 100 relay and the 4 x 400 relay. As the longest sprint in a track and field competition, the 400 meter race requires the most complex training and strategies for success. To prepare for a 400 meter race you must develop not only speed and power but also your pacing and breathing technique.
Before developing your breathing technique, determine your pacing strategy for the race. A successful pacing plan depends on the runner and will vary between different competitors. A common race plan is to explode out of the blocks with power, running at full speed through the first turn. The runner then relaxes into a slightly less arduous pace for the straightaway, accelerating again at the turn. Finish by sprinting at full power to the finish.
Breathing at the Start
Before the race your breathing should be at a relaxed, natural rate. When you are in the blocks, control your breathing to maximize your power for an explosive start. Continue to breathe gently when you hear the starter begin the count with "on your marks." Inhale and hold your breath for a moment at the word "set." Finally, at the sound of the gun, let out your breath quickly in a sharp exhale as you explode from the starting blocks.
Once you are into the race and employing your pacing strategy, work on managing your oxygen intake and output through cadence breathing. Cadence breathing means you inhale and exhale to a set rhythm as you run. You should pre-determine the most effective and efficient cadence for you through training and practice. Some runners choose a 3-3 cadence, meaning that you inhale three strides and then breathe out for three strides. Depending on your pace, you might also try a 4-4 cadence. Practicing your cadence before race day is essential to make your breathing more efficient.
Some runners prefer natural breathing to a set cadence for a race. If you feel cadence breathing is only a distraction on race day and may hinder your performance, practice simply breathing naturally during your sprint. While cadence breathing can make you a more efficient runner, there is no right or wrong way to breathe during the race. The key is to experiment with breathing techniques during your training so that you know what works best for you when it is time to compete.
Joelle Dedalus began writing professionally for websites such as PugetSoundMagazine.com in 2009. She received her B.A. in English education at Iowa State University and is currently a M.F.A. candidate in creative nonfiction writing at Emerson College in Boston, where she is developing a manuscript on literary travel. Her areas of expertise include travel and literature, the outdoors and the arts.