The 200 meters is typically run on an outdoor track, beginning on the curve and ending on the home straight. Training may not get you Usain Bolt’s 2009 World Championship time of 19.19 seconds, but it can improve your speed, endurance and overall time. Train for maximum velocity by focusing on your form and technique for each stage of the race as well as on your stride frequency and length. Teach your body to produce greater force so you propel yourself farther with each step. Your optimal stride length depends on your genetics and physical prowess, but elite sprinters often have stride lengths of 8.5 feet (2.6 meters) and frequencies of five steps per second, notes Michael Young of Human Performance Consulting.
Consult a coach to determine which skills you most need to develop to become a faster sprinter.
Remember to give yourself a rest day at least once a week so you do not overtrain and put yourself at risk of injury.
Warm up before every workout and prior to competition to prevent injury, prepare your metabolic, energy and muscle systems for work and to set yourself up for optimal performance. Do dynamic warm-up moves including form runs in which you go for short, straight sprints -- emphasizing alignment of your toes, hands, head and eyes -- plus quick steps, skips, backward hip kicks and high knees.
Practice coming out of the starting blocks. Begin starting block training with an upright position and progress, over time, to a crouched position. Using a crouched position too soon may impair your overall times. Put your highly reactive, or smart, foot in the rear block and your more powerful foot forward. Practice pushing off the block explosively from a bent-forward position, eventually mimicking the crouched position used by elite sprinters.
Train for the first eight to 10 steps of the race -- the acceleration phase. Work on body posture, making it look as if you are pushing a car or a sled -- which is very different than the posture you use during maximum speed, which is more upright. Do wall sprints by placing your hands on a wall and placing your feet about 5 feet away from the wall so your body forms a 45-degree angle with the ground. Sprint through three steps and then hold your position. Work your way up to seven or more strides.
Practice pulling your toes toward your shins -- or dorsiflexing your ankles -- so you waste less time in the air. Hone this skill by beginning at a walking pace with small steps that are only ankle height and concentrate on keeping the toes pulled up during each step. Increase your tempo gradually while maintaining the dorsiflexion of the ankle. Emphasize short strides without scuffing your feet on the ground.
Conduct plyometric drills to improve your ability to produce force off the ground, which minimizes braking during your run, enhances overall speed and helps you get out of the blocks faster. Do squat jumps, jump lunges, box jumps and high skips to hone your speed-strength two to three times weekly. Perform 10 to 20 of each exercise in quick succession to mimic the quick push off the ground you experience during the 200 meters.
Do targeted strength training for the gastrocnemius of the calf, the hamstrings and quadriceps of your thighs, the gluteus maximus of the buttocks and gluteus medius and minimus of the hip abductors. Include moves such as calf raises, squats, lunges, deadlifts and single-leg squats. Do this weight workout twice per week on nonconsecutive days.
Train to finish each race. Practice coasting after you cross the finish line, rather than stopping abruptly, to avoid injury. This also helps you feel fresh for other events or later heats in the same meet.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.