The 800-meter run is one of the most challenging middle distance runs in the sport of track and field. The race is run for two laps around a 400-meter track or four laps around a 200-meter indoor track. Athletes must combine speed with endurance to finish the race strong and ahead of the pack. Runners with the talent or ambition to take on the 800 meters should follow a detailed training plan to achieve success.
Establish an aerobic base, because a strong cardiovascular system is the foundation for any runner. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 800-meter athletes should run 10 to 15 miles per week initially, gradually progressing to 20 miles per week. Running more miles will increase endurance and improve your heart rate in preparation for shorter, high-intensity workouts later. Break down weekly running mileage into three to four sessions ranging between 2 to 6 miles each, with one day set aside for a long run. An example of a cumulative 15-mile running week may be three shorter runs of 3 miles each and one longer run of 6 miles.
Develop a training plan to prepare for the event. Decide how much time you need to adequately train, such as eight to 16 weeks, then write out a weekly running schedule. Ideally, you should run three to five times per week. Increase your mileage each week, but throw in a low-mileage week about once each month. Break your plan into a pre-competition and competition cycle. Schedule two interval workouts per week with at least two days of rest between hard workouts for adequate recovery. Interval workouts alternate sprinting with walking or slow jogging.
Incorporate strength training into your 800-meter preparation. Strength training helps build lean muscle mass which increases the metabolism and caloric burn. Circuit training involves a series of strengthening exercises plus cardiovascular activities to keep the heart rate high. You can perform the exercises with or without weights. Progressively add heavier weights or more repetitions as you gain strength. A sample circuit may include eight to 10 exercises featuring lunges, squats, step-ups on a box, shoulder presses and pushups, plus core work including bicycle crunches to keep the belly muscles engaged. Complete the entire circuit three times with no rest between exercises within each set, then a one- to two-minute rest between sets.
Incorporate rest days into your training plan once or twice a week. Inadequate rest can lead to poor recovery between workouts, which may result in injuries or decreased physical performance. Eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet to fuel your body for the physical and mental rigors of training.
Always consult with a health professional before you begin an exercise program or engage in strenuous physical activity. Warm up and cool down before and after your workouts, respectively, to decrease the risk of injuries.
Perform interval training workouts, which are key components of training for the 800 meters. Intervals increase the body's ability to tolerate high workloads through short to medium bursts of speed, alternated with longer, slower jogging. The slower jogging periods between harder running or sprinting work allows the body to recover and return to a more normal state. Once recovered, the runner can run hard again and perform another interval of speed work. Runners may begin performing intervals of a 1:2 hard-to-easy ratio and progress to 1:1, where equal amounts of time are spent in speed work and easier running. A sample interval workout for an 800-meter runner may include a series of 200-meter repeats where a 200-meter jog is alternated with a 200-meter sprint for a total of eight repetitions, or 3,200 total meters.
Add tempo runs into 800-meter run training once a week during the mid-phase of your competition period. Tempo runs are performed at your ideal racing pace, along with a warm-up and cool-down period. Tempo runs can also help determine interval paces. For example, an athlete who can run 3,200 meters in 12 minutes should run 400-meter intervals at a 90-second pace.
Continue your core work and strength training throughout the competition phase. Easy-paced runs are also extremely beneficial as they allow for active exercise periods that don't stress the body as much as hard workouts. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, aerobic workouts help to clear lactic acid from the body. Lactic acid is built up during intense workouts such as sprinting and can lead to muscle fatigue and cramping. Schedule easy-paced runs, during which you can talk conversationally, on opposite days of hard workouts.
Things You'll Need
- National Federation of State High School Associations: NFHS Coaching Today: The advanced high school 800m run
- High Performance Middle-Distance Running; David Sunderland; 2006.
- Everything Track and Field: The 800 Meters
Jennifer Andrews specializes in writing about health, wellness and nutrition. Andrews has a Master of Science in physical therapy from the University of Alberta as well as a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. She teaches yoga and pilates and is a recent graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.