The Truth About Coaching 400/600/800 Athletes

Posted by Ron Grigg


Download: The 7 Laws of 400/600/800 Meter Coaching Success 

The 400/600/800 meter events have definite speed requirements, yet they also have high to predominant aerobic contributions.   The athletes who excel at 400/600/800 meters do not possess a high percentage of type 2b fast twitch fibers as would be found in pure sprinter.  They also don’t possess the predominance of slow twitch fibers found in the pure distance runner.  The good news is, these athletes do likely possess a high percentage of type 2a fast fibers, and these fibers that have sometimes been called intermediate fibers are trainable for improved endurance.

Even the best coaches may have moments of uncertainty as they question their approach to training the 400/600/800 meter athlete.  Given the demands of the events, and the varied strengths and weaknesses of the athletes who do well here, coaches do have decisions to make regarding training design.  Whether the coach has a strong background in coaching sprint events, or they have a strong background in coaching distance events, they may have to expand their comfort zones.  Sprint coaches will need to learn more about endurance training, and endurance coaches will need to learn more about sprint training.  The good news is this growth will lead to being a better and more versatile coach overall.

4 Goals of 400m Training

4 Goals of 800m Training

Recognize that these athletes have specific gifts for potential excellence at the 400/600/800 meter events, and therefore will likely have relative weaknesses on the fringes toward excellence for top end speed, and for continuous endurance running.  The good news is, almost all forms of running training will be valid in the 400/600/800 meter training plan somewhere.

High school situations often have a high density of competitions.  One often asked question is, “How do I train when I have two meets each week?”  I suggest that that having those two meets eliminates the need for many additional specific training.  When in doubt, stay general in your training and let the races serve as the specific.  The good news is there is nothing wrong with “racing the athlete into shape” if it can be part of an appropriately designed training plan.

Once a coach has an understanding of what qualities to train and how to train them in isolation, then they can get creative in combining some of these qualities in unique ways.  The good news is designing training for the 400/600/800 meter athlete isn’t easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is!



Discover how to plan the perfect balance of speed and endurance training with Ron Grigg’s ‘7 Laws of 400/600/800 Coaching Success.’

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Ron Grigg - Ron Grigg continues to raise the level of the Dolphins’ success as he enters his 18th season at the helm at Jacksonville University. Grigg has made the Dolphins track program a beacon in the ASUN Conference by winning the ASUN Indoor and Outdoor Championships in each of the last 11 seasons – earning “Coach of the Year” in all 22 of those titles, as well as earning the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association South Region Women’s “Coach of the Year” in 2008. Grigg began his coaching career at Carver High School in Baltimore, Md., in 1994 as the head cross country and track and field coach for one year before assuming an assistant coach position at Coppin State College in 1995. Grigg earned a Bachelor of Science in political science from Massachusetts-Dartmouth in 1993. Grigg holds USATF Level II coaching certifications in sprints, hurdles, jumps, throws and multi-events, and has instructed both USATF and USTFCCCA Coaching Certification courses with regularity.

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