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 different workout applications are analyzed and prescribed. The other three variables are influenced by the training period, and before a workout can be put in place a careful look at what the hoped-for outcome must be examined.
Experienced and successful middle distance coaches typically have their athletes do 200 meter training sessions in three different ways: as special endurance 1 sessions, intensive interval sessions, or race modeling sessions depending on the training period. In contrast, other middle distance coaches tend to just pick one way of doing things and then stick with it through the entire season. It is much more effective to do this type of work in the former way, through a variety of ways, but careful consideration to physiological demand needs to be taken into account when placing the sessions into their appropriate training period.
During the general preparation period, structured 200 meter sessions are seldom done. Since the focus of this period is on preparing the generic distance runner, any work done that resembles 200 meter speed should be done as repeated hill work to also develop strength, or as embedded pick-ups in fartlek sessions to also develop effective changes in pace. Both of these workout types should be done often during general preparation but they need not be timed or have a set distance. They are all about perceived effort by the athlete.
* Coaching Resource: 800M: Successful Coaching Strategies
Controlled sets of repeated 200 meters are introduced in the specific preparation period for middle distance runners and sessions are done in each of the three, twelve-day microcycles, during this training time. Recalling the three remaining physiological variables in play, a typical session would be: 12 x 200 meters with 2:30 rest for a total of 2400 meters. The recovery is very incomplete at 2:30 so a goal time for each athlete’s 200 must be reasonable.
A good rule of thumb is to take each athletes current 400 meter time (should be part of their profile) and multiply by a k of .55. If there are many runners, have them do the math themselves. For example, a 2:00, 800 meter runner, who last week ran a 54.8 split on a JV mile relay would show the following equation: 54.8 x .55 = 30.14. So, for this runner: 12 x 200 at 30.2 seconds with 2:30 recovery. All variables are covered. This is called an intensive interval session.
During the pre-competitive period which follows specific prep, a different way of doing 200’s is more appropriate. This is the time of race modeling and one session in each of the three, twelve-day microcycles, is essential. Again, keeping the 200 meter distance constant, the other three variables address more of the physiological demands of how the race will develop. A typical session would be: 12 x 200 meters but now with a shorter 2:00 recovery because it needs to feel more like a race (but some recovery is needed!).
So, taking that same 2:00, 800 meter runner as before, but who now runs 1:58.3 because it is a little later in the season, prescribe the following workout: 12 x 200 meters for a total of 2400 meters, 2:00 interval recovery, and goal times of 31 seconds, 31, 31, 30, 30, 30, 29, 29, 28, 28, and the remaining two repeats at whatever the athlete has left in the tank. Hopefully, those last two repeats will be 28 seconds or faster. This is race modeling and has a much different physiological stimulus than holding a stable work time.
The last of the four training periods is the competition period and middle distance runners surely have completed their development by now and are presently found tapering, peaking and recycling between championship races. This does not mean repeat 200 meter sessions are over, they are just done in a different way.
They are prescribed as special endurance 1 work sessions and are typical as to what might be seen over with the sprinters at this time. The goal is to sharpen speed in the critical zone of the middle distance race. These sessions should be done often enough to accomplish that goal, depending on how far the athlete progresses into the important races.
A typical session would be: 5 x 200 meters for a total of 1000 meters. The recovery interval jumps to nine minutes between each repeat. This would still not be enough time for full recovery, but it is enough for the athlete to replicate their efforts over the session. The time goal is as fast as one can go, and then repeat that, and so on.
If one cannot replicate their work over five repeats, then next time bump the recovery to 12 minutes. The key to this workout is the top-end quality of the work itself. Looking at our 800 meter runner again, hopefully the repeat time will be replicated at around 25-26 seconds. It should be timed carefully and be a good gauge of how fast they can close the critical zone of the race. Again, this is a special endurance 1 work session so quality is the prime focus.
* Additional Teaching Resource: Every 800m – 1600m Workout For The Entire High School Season
Doing repeat 200’s is a staple workout for middle distance runners throughout the season. They are not always done the the same way. Rather, vary them by the time of the season to get full impact of the training stimuli. This is why we periodize training.