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Understanding the Competition Period in Middle Distance Training

In considering the unique construction of a middle distance training macrocyle, the first point should be the length of time available.  Ideally, it should be set up to be between fifteen and twenty weeks in duration.  Secondly, the macrocycle should be divided into two phases which are called preparation and competitive.  In essence, the first half of the macrocycle focuses on general to specific preparation, while the second half focuses on the spectrum of less important to more important competitions.  Thirdly, the two phases should be sub-divided into four training periods (two periods in each phase) which are used to plan and implement different types of aerobic and anaerobic training sessions depending on the time of the season.  Today the focus is the competition period…

600 Meter Repeat Workouts – Three Different Styles for Middle Distance Training

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…

Managing the Racing Schedule of the Middle Distance Athlete

Middle distance and distance racers cannot be effectively managed in the same manner as sprinters, jumpers and throwers are, despite rules that allow it.  Cross country coaches, for the most part, understand the many aspects of managing the racing schedule of distance runners: 1) race with a purpose, therefore schedule only enough competitions to address the needs, goals and aspirations for that season, 2) balance the need for training with the fun and interesting experiences gained from a meet, as most meets cost three days of training, 3) quality over quantity is always better in competition, this is especially true in scheduling the number of racing opportunities, 4) distance racing is an intense psychological activity, much more so than the speed and power events, there…

Middle Distance Repeat 200 Meter Training Sessions

Is there a more “typical” track training session for a middle distance runner than a set of repeated 200 meter efforts?  The answer is probably no but there are many different varieties of this workout and depending on where the athletes are in their track macrocycle, and there are more appropriate times than others for doing these 200’s in a particular way. The physiological variables to be considered for any interval-style training session are found as four factors: length of each repeat, velocity of each repeat, total volume of the training session, and the time duration for the interval of recovery between repeated efforts.  Since this is about repeated 200 meter efforts, the length of each repeat is not a variable but a constant as…

Speed Endurance Work for the Middle Distance Athlete

Speed endurance work is often overlooked by middle distance coaches.  The theoretical concept isn’t, but the workouts done to directly address it, is.  Speed endurance is understood to be the ability to maintain a very high percentage of maximum velocity over the greatest distance possible.  Many different workouts touch on the concept, with repeat 500-600 meter efforts coming to mind.  Of course, sessions such as these will somewhat help with addressing speed endurance, but while the velocity is fast, it is not fast enough to put a high stimulus on developing speed endurance.  Shorter and faster repetitive work needs to be the true speed endurance stimulus for a middle distance runner.  Speed endurance training sessions consist of repetitive work from 60 meters to about 200…

Extensive Intervals Workouts for Middle Distance Runners

Extensive Intervals refer to a category of crucial workouts that are used for building aerobic power in middle distance runners.  They are introduced in the general preparation period and emphasized during the specific preparation and pre-competitive periods.  Aerobic power development requires many weeks of training because adaptations includes both bio-chemical and structural changes to the body.  During tapering and peaking, Extensive Intervals are a small component of the competition period and are only prescribed to maintain the aerobic foundation developed in earlier training periods. Extensive Interval workouts (also called Extensive Tempo workouts by some authors) are done directly at, or within a few percentage points of, vVO2 max date pace.  If placed on an energy continuum, Extensive Intervals would occupy the range of 93%-109% of…

Racing Tactics for the 800 Meters

The 800 meter run is defined as an endurance event in track and field because the aerobic energy demand is slightly higher than the anaerobic energy demand at race pace. It is an event that draws participants both from the long sprint group as well as distance runners that possess good speed. It is not a commonly thought of distance race that builds through a comfort zone into a critical zone where the race is commonly won or lost. Rather, the 800 meter run is uncomfortable and taxing from the start, and psychologically a 400 meter runner is more attuned to this style than a miler might be. However, history shows that even at the international level, both long sprinter and miler can be successful…

Anaerobic Speed Reserve for Distance Runners

The physiological concept of anaerobic speed reserve (ASR) is a relatively new concept to middle distance running.  ASR is defined as the difference between an athlete’s absolute maximum velocity and their maximum aerobic speed (vVO2 max).    The anaerobic/aerobic energy system contribution percentages for a sprint event of 400 meters or shorter is much different from an endurance event of 800 meters or longer. The difference largely determines the success a specialized athlete may have at various events above or below the lactate threshold (LT).  The importance behind the ASR model is simply that faster top-end velocity precedes faster sub-maximal aerobic speed.  Elite sprinters achieve racing speeds that are twice as fast as elite milers, but elite marathoners race only moderately slower than milers (Figure…

Designing Tempo and Lactate Threshold Work Sessions for the Middle Distance Athlete

Unless a runner is on a very long run or exposed to considerable ambient heat in a training session, most fatigue can be traced to the effects of acidosis, i.e. hydrogen ion+ produced deterioration of performance.  Many examples of acidosis are obvious, such as watching a runner trying to complete a set of eight fast 400 meter repeats with incomplete rest between each bout of work.  Other examples of hydrogen ion fatigue are not so obvious, such as trying to explain to a runner why they are not faster in a ten-mile race.  Designing tempo and lactate threshold work sessions are our focus here. Glucose, reduced in the absence of oxygen, is constantly converted to useable ATP energy by animals.  It is one of the…

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