Categorizing Training Paces For 400/800 Runners

Posted by Ron Grigg



How do we decide what to train and when to train it?  That is part science and part art.  Let’s establish a menu of paces for available to us while planning training for 400/800 runners . 

Coaches of different disciplines and different influences use a variety of terms that often mean the same or similar things.  We will attempt to organize and perhaps simplify this terminology.  Some can make a case for arguing the minutia of each definition or the science behind those arguments.  I want to take a more general approach that will get us “in the ballpark” before we start obsessing over the details. 

Let’s use actual racing events to describe training paces.

Marathon Pace Training is aerobic training that is done to train what the endurance literature calls the aerobic threshold and is often done with continuous runs called tempo runs.

Half Marathon Pace Training is aerobic training that is done to train what the endurance literature calls the lactate threshold and often utilizes longer repetitions, although continuous tempo runs are also used. 

Repetition training can be defined as any running bout that is repeated with intermittent rest.  Interval training has become synonymous with repetition training.  There are subtle differences but it is important to note, when designing any training scheme it is the coach who must account for overall session volume, repetition length, speed of run, and length of the rest interval. 

All of these variables can be manipulated to dictate the stress of the session.  Because of this, there are a near endless variety of training sessions that can be utilized toward similar training objectives.

The term “speed work” has also unfortunately become synonymous with repetition training.  I want to caution against using the term “speed work” as a catch all phrase because I think it is too vague and brings with it mixed connotations. 

We will discuss the term “speed development training” later.

10k Pace Training is aerobic training that is done to train both lactate threshold and what the endurance literature calls the VO2 Max and utilizes repetitions.

3k/3200m/5k Pace Training is primarily aerobic training that is done to train VO2 Max and utilizes repetitions.  Extensive Tempo training is a similar term in the sprint training literature.

1500/1600/mile Pace Training is mixed aerobic and anaerobic training done to train the ability to buffer against the acidic environment in the muscle created by higher speed running over longer durations.  Intensive Tempo training is a similar term in the sprint training literature.

800-meter Pace Training is mixed aerobic and anaerobic training done to train the ability to buffer against the acidic environment in the muscle created by higher speed running over longer durations.  Special Endurance 2 training is a similar term in the sprint training literature.

400-meter Pace Training is primarily anaerobic training done to train the ability to buffer against the acidic environment in the muscle created by higher speed running over longer durations.  Special Endurance 1 training is a similar term in the sprint training literature.

RELATED ARTICLE: 4 Goals of Coaching the Dual 400/800 Athlete

200-meter Pace Training is anaerobic training done to train the ability to hold very high percentages of one’s maximum speed capabilities.  Speed Endurance training is a similar term in the sprint training literature.

100-meter Pace Training is anaerobic training done to train the ability to hold very high percentages of one’s maximum speed capabilities. 

Short Speed Endurance training is a similar term in the sprint training literature.  Short Speed Endurance can be further classified as Alactic Short Speed Endurance or Glycolytic Short Speed Endurance depending on the rest interval used in the training session.

It should be noted that even in sprint races such as the 100-meter and 200-meter events, there is deceleration that occurs.  The “endurance” or the ability to maintain the highest percentages of one’s maximum velocity is more often tied to neuromuscular endurance than energy system endurance.

Speed Development Training is primarily neuromuscular training designed to allow the body to reach new levels of top velocity. 

Speed Development Training can be further classified as Acceleration Training and Maximum Velocity Training.  Acceleration Training deals with the rapid development of velocity from first movement, the start, or zero velocity.  Maximum Velocity Training deals with the development of the highest level of velocity the athlete can create. 

LEARN MORE: Key Factors in Planning Training for Combo 400/800 Runners 

There are significant technical and power related qualities that are prerequisite to training Acceleration and Maximum Velocity.  Therefore all technical and power related activities can be categorized with Speed Development Training. 

The further categorization of Speed Development Training is significant for the sprint athlete as there will be separate sessions devoted to each sub-category.

Now that we have identified the paces available to us, let’s create a system of terminology that can help us prioritize those training paces as they relate to any primary event. 

The philosophies of Lyle Knudson, Tom Schwartz and Steve Magness have heavily influenced my perception of classifying training.  I have borrowed many terms and added a few in order to more thoroughly cover the training spectrum.

Specific Support describes training at the pace of an athlete’s primary event, and allows us to further classify all other training.  Endurance Support will be used to classify any paces that are slower than the athlete’s primary event.  Speed Support will be used to classify any paces that are faster than the athlete’s primary event.

The paces closest to the primary event will be called Direct Endurance Support and Direct Speed Support. 

The next set of paces will be called Medial Endurance Support and Medial Speed Support. 

The next set of paces will be called General Endurance Support and General Speed Support

The next set of paces will be called Peripheral Endurance Support and Peripheral Speed Support.

Let’s look at two examples. 

On the left is someone who is primarily a “miler” which will also cover the 1500-meter or 1600-meter events. 

On the right is someone who is primarily a 400-meter runner.

Pace Continuum Support 1500m

pace continuum support 400m

 

It should be noted that any paces that fall beyond the peripheral classification may still be utilized in training and they will also be classified as peripheral training.  Speed Development Training is appropriate for every running athlete from the 100-meter specialist to the Marathoner.  Speed Development will fall within the support continuum for all sprint events. 

For Endurance athletes, Speed Development may not fall within the support continuum, but should still be trained.  This kind of training can always be classified as Neuromuscular Speed Support.

This system of organization has helped me more clearly plan training for many groups of athletes.  Using event pace and support terminology has helped to simplify what can be complex concepts of energy systems and periodization. 


Want to know exactly how to use this information to create specific workouts and progressions for your athletes who excel at both 400m and 800m?

Coach Grigg has two products dedicated to these topics:

Click here for 'Keys to Developing Combo 400/800 Runners' [Beginner/Intermediate Level]

Click here for 'Complete Program Design for High School 400/600/800 Runners' [Advanced Level] 


Free Report: The 7 Laws of 400/800 Coaching Success (with Ron Grigg)

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Updated on May 22, 2017 by Latif Thomas


Ron Grigg has made the Dolphins track program a beacon in the Atlantic Sun Conference by winning the A-Sun Indoor and Outdoor Championships in each of the last 10 seasons – earning “Coach of the Year” in all 20 of those titles. Since taking over as head coach, Grigg has directly coached more than 120 conference champions in track and more than 250 all-conference performances.  The program has also produced greater than 300 Atlantic Sun All-Academic performers during that time.  

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