Unlike shorter sprint events, the 400-meter dash requires both speed and stamina. You must be able to maintain a fast pace for a long time and think in terms of strategy when running the race. In addition to building your strength, think about lane placement, maintaining a race pace and how to use your speed to your advantage at both the beginning and end of the race.
Add plyometric exercises, such as double leg box jumps, into your workout routine. Plyometrics improve your speed and power by getting your muscles to their "peak force" quickly, according to Running Planet. Stand upright on a bench or box. Tighten your abdominal muscles and drop off the bench. Do not jump down, just drop down. Jump up and forward right after you hit the ground. Try to get a maximum distance from the jump. Avoid locking your knees at anytime during the exercise. Repeat several times, increasing repetitions at each workout.
Build strength in your legs with resistance training and cross-training from swimming or cycling. This will help you work out muscles not normally exercised with running alone.
Run longer distances. Incorporate runs longer than 400 meters into your running workout. Run a longer distance at a moderate pace two to three times a week . This will build your endurance and leg strength.
Start your 400 meters at your top sprinting speed without winding yourself. For the first 100 meters, run at your top speed.
Relax and settle into your established pace during the second 100 meters. Maintain that pace through the third 100 meters, getting ready to bolt for the finish.
Keep your pace up during the final 100 meters. Don't assume you should speed up because it's straight. Pump your arms hard and maintain your pace. If you can, increase the pace as you approach the finish line, running through it instead of slowing down in anticipation.
Michelle Hogan is a writer and the author of 13 books including the 2005 bestselling memoir, "Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America." Hogan studied English at American University and has been writing professionally since 1998. Her work has appeared in "The New York Times," "Redbook," "Family Circle" and many other publications.