Prescribing 600 meter repeat workouts for middle distance runners is a staple in any program. The training effects of this length of workout will tax the aerobic energy system, place huge demands on the anaerobic energy system, increase the cross-sectional diameter of Type 1 (slow twitch) muscle fibers, increase the cross-sectional diameter of Type 2 (fast twitch) muscle fibers, increase the volume of aerobic and anaerobic enzymes, increase myoglobin volume, improve running economy, and increase the buffering ability of the cell—all dependent on what intensity is prescribed to the 600 meter interval session.
Middle distance runners think they alone control the intensity of a 600 meter repeat workout and they do to a point. The athlete’s brain analyzes what the goal of the workout is based on prior experiences and then sets up a pace that ensures nothing catastrophic will happen to the body.
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But, the coach also has a big influence on the intensity of the work because the coach controls the recovery interval. A short recovery interval means low intensity work and a high level of recovery means high intensity during the runs. While maintaining the work distance of 600 meters for three types of work, let’s look at the differences in session implementation based on the projected outcome of each workout.
1. The first 600 meter workout example stimulates aerobic energy system development through improvement in running economy. Aerobic work is mostly low intensity, so the recovery will be short. The workout is 12 x 600 meters with 20 seconds recovery between. Because the skill level varies so much in middle distance runners, the target times for each 600 meter repeat must also be varied based on Table 1. The constants are the workout distance and the recovery interval. Because this session is aerobic in nature, target times are determined to be 85% of present day vVO2 max (2 mile) pace.
2. The second 600 meter workout example stimulates mostly aerobic energy system development through improvement in aerobic power. This workout is more intense than the first example so the recovery interval will be longer. The workout is 10 x 600 meters with recovery equal to the work period as shown in Table 2. Because vVO2 max pace skill level varies so much in middle distance runners, the target times for each 600 meter repeat must also be varied. If doing this workout as a group just use an average group recovery time that is close for all the runners. The target times are based right on individual vVO2 max pace times for the current date.
3. The third 600 meter workout example stimulates mostly anaerobic energy system development through improvement in anaerobic capacity and lactate tolerance. Because it is anaerobic the runners date pate 400 meter time should be used to set up goal times and not vVO2 max. The 600 meter work velocity should be set up to be 88% of current date 400 meter pace as shown it Table 3. The workout is 5 x 600 meters with 5 minutes recovery between each bout of work.
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The same workout distance can be run several different ways by merely adjusting the recovery time between bouts of work which directly influences the intensity of the effort.