Specific Preparation Period Workouts for Middle Distance

Posted by Scott Christensen

Ideally, a typical middle distance training macrocyle is set up to be between fifteen and twenty weeks in length and divided into four training periods.  The difference in macrocycle time lies in the number of training sessions dedicated to the first period, or general preparation period.  Once general prep is completed, the next stage is termed the specific preparation period, or specific prep for short. 

For middle distance runners who are able to manage a long general prep period, specific prep is set at about half the length as general prep. 

For those runners who could but manage general prep time to the minimum length, then specific prep is about equal in length to general prep. 

In the longer training model it is three, twelve day microcycles, or five calendar weeks in length, while the shorter model has two, twelve day microcycles.

Specific prep is a perfect time for expansion of the seven day microcycles found in general prep to the twelve day cycles found in this period, mainly by adding anaerobic training sessions

Special endurance 1, special endurance 2, and speed endurance are all key training sessions for a successful middle distance runner, and they are all introduced at this time.

These sessions would be characterized by moderate total volume, and relatively short recovery periods between work bouts within the session. 



Anaerobic intensity is controlled not by the work, but by the recovery period.  That is the definition of an interval.  By keeping the recovery short, usually 90-150 seconds, intensity is compromised due to lack of metabolic and neuro-muscular recovery.  In other words, the runner is pushing high heart rates, but is relatively low on speed and lactate factors.

On the aerobic energy side during specific prep, total daily running volume continues to climb, but not to the extent of the increase shown during general prep.  Aerobic power workouts are added (how fast can you run today?) and aerobic capacity workouts (how far can you run today?) are emphasized more than just running base miles as is typical of general prep. 

Once an accurate field test for their individual vVO2 max is determined, then workouts can be prescribed that correlate directly to their date pace.  This is the most effective way of training for both improved aerobic power and improved aerobic capacity. 

The vVO2 max field test will also be used to determine tempo run pace, lactate threshold run pace, and long runs pace at this period of time.  Personal, or career bests, are of no value in setting up the most effective aerobic run paces unless they currently match date pace.

Specific prep is the second-highest hard-working period found in a middle distance macrocycle, with only the pre-competitive period more demanding. 

Chronologically, since pre comp follows specific prep, it really benefits the runner to experience the ramping up of intensity (and some increased volume) as they get more and more fit and get closer to the main competitions.


* Coaching Resource: 800M: Successful Coaching Strategies


It is important that a middle distance runner does not over-race during specific prep.  Training is the emphasis during both general and specific prep. 

A race or two over each twelve day microcycle for a total of five races during this period is more than enough to gather the information needed to asses the responses that the athlete is having to the training stimuli.  The more experienced the runner, then the fewer races that are needed. 

The training sessions common to each specific prep microcycle (with session examples) should contain: a long run (12% of the twelve-day microcyle mileage), three recovery runs (4-7% of microcycle mileage), one strength run (short hill repeats with appropriate warm-up and cool-down mileage), one max speed session (repeat flying 30 meters/3 min rest between, and with appropriate warm-up and cool-down mileage), one 25 minute tempo run, one vVO2 max session done as work time=recovery time intervals, one speed endurance session (5 x 150 meters, one special endurance 1 session (6 x 200 meters), and one special endurance 2 session (4 x 500 meters).  That leaves room for a race.  If more races are desired then take out the hill session for one microcycle.


* Training Resource: Every 800m – 1600m Workout For The Entire High School Season


The specific prep period is a time of expansive aerobic and anaerobic energy system development done gradually and sequentially so that injuries are kept to a minimum

The specific preparation model that is implemented should show a constant array of complimentary training sessions which adhere strongly to both the Law of Adaptation and to the Law of Specificity in progressing toward middle distance racing fitness.    



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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