Setting up an Anaerobic Profile

Posted by Scott Christensen

In middle-distance training it is important that workouts are determined by certain individual anaerobic index performance values that are unique to each athlete.  In distance training it is common to use the athlete’s field-tested, date sensitive,VO2 max value to determine workout pace intensity for aerobic work.  As an example, a four mile tempo run should be run at 85% of an individuals VO2 max pace.  Another example is a long run done at a pace of 70% of VO2 max pace.  On the other end of the scale, the 800 meter race is typically run at about 125% of VO2 max >pace. All of these training intensities are percentage of the aerobic capacity index value for the athlete.

middistancerunningAnaerobic running intensity is not linked to VO2 max pace index numbers, not even for middle-distance training.  The anaerobic energy system is a short-lived ATP regeneration system that provides a lot of quick ATP production from carbohydrate fuel because it is not associated with either mitochondria in the cell or oxygen supply to the cell.  It has one less link in the energy production chain.  It is a highly limited energy regeneration system because of the fatiguing byproducts resulting from the absence of oxygen and enzymes used to reform less fatiguing waste material.  The anaerobic ATP energy potential must combine with the aerobically produced ATP energy system potential to be able to race to an exhaustive effort in middle-distance racing.

The intensity index used in more complicated anaerobic sprint training programs is usually linked to maximum velocity for the individual.  This index is established by timing the sprinter on the fly for 50 meters, and after doing a simple division problem, the coach has determined the maximum velocity in meters per second.  From that value the sprint coach can establish training intensities for 80-600 meters training efforts based on percentages of the maximum velocity index value.  It would be a similar technique to an endurance coach establishing percentage intensities off of VO2 max pace for aerobic work.  The middle-distance coach does not have to reduce maximum effort to meters per second in order to establish anaerobic intensity efforts for their runners.  Rather, using date pace for a maximum effort in the 400 meters will be close enough.

Middle-distance runners in high school typically have a performance range of 50-60 seconds for a single maximum effort 400 meter trial.  Because of that extensive range, an anaerobic profile should be established for each athlete so that they know what their target intensity is for each anaerobic workout, whatever the training distance may be.  For the profile, the coach will need to have a good idea of their athlete’s date pace 400 meter performance.  This marker should improve during the season and the index value should be updated every two weeks or so.  This can be done with a 400 meter trial, a race 400, or a 400 meter split on a relay.  Because the anaerobic workout profile is linked by percentages to the date pace 400 markers, the anaerobic workout intensity should get progressively faster as well.

Anaerobic alactic workouts do not fit such a profile.  As defined, this work is 30-50 meters on the fly.  Work of this type is always done at maximum velocity with adequate rest to ensure that it stays alactic.  Sprint coaches will do much more alactic work than middle-distance coaches do, but it should still be done once every 12 day microcycle for middle-distance athletes.

The anaerobic training profile for each middle-distance athlete should be set up as in Figure 1.


Date Max 400 = x % of x Work Distance
Speed Endurance 103-104% 60-150 meters
Special Endurance 1 102-96% 150-300 meters
Special Endurance 2 92-95% 300-600 meters
Intensive Tempo 80% 400 meters
Extensive Tempo 70% 400 meters

> Figure 1.  An Anaerobic Intensity Profile for Middle-Distance Runners.


Armed with this chart a middle-distance coach can individualize all of the anaerobic workout components of the 12 day training microcyle.  For example, an intense session of 300 meter repeats can be set up as a cornerstone workout.  Once the intensity has been determined off the chart, it is up to the coach to establish the interval recovery period that will be needed to maintain the quality of the session.  Perhaps it can be administered in repetitions within multiple sets.  It will be up to the coach to decide the workout structure based on the knowledge of the athlete.  The coach will also need to determine the number of repeats of work that each athlete has the ability to handle.  With that information a total volume for any anaerobic workout session can be determined.  Based on the total volume of the workout, the coach can then place the proper sequence of anaerobic workouts into the 12 day training microcycle using the principles of regeneration.  For example, a Special Endurance 1 session of 5 x 300 meters in 43 seconds with 4 minutes recovery between reps (for an 800 meter runner who can run 2:00 for the 800 and 55 seconds for the 400 at the moment) would require a 48 hour regeneration period before a similar workout could be done.  However, an Extensive Tempo session of 6 x 400 meters in 78 seconds with 2 minutes rest between for the same athlete, only requires 24 hours of regeneration, and just about anything, including an important race could be done the next day.


Scott Christensen - Scott Christensen’s teams have been ranked in the national top 10 eight times. He won the 1997 High School National Championship and his squads have captured multiple Minnesota State Championships. Scott has coached 13 Minnesota State Championship-winning teams and 27 individual Minnesota State Champions. He was the USTFCCCA Endurance Specialist School junior team leader for the World Cross Country Team in 2003 and the senior team leader in 2008. Scott is a 14-year USATF Level II endurance lead instructor.

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