Periodizing Special Endurance 2 Workouts: Middle Distance

Posted by Scott Christensen

Periodizing Special Endurance 2 Sessions: Middle Distance

Multilateral training done in planned balance is the general theme of modern middle distance training.  Much has been learned over the past couple of decades about the value of concurrently training all five of the primary physical components to achieve a better runner.  Sport scientists working with sizeable experimental samples of distance runners and sprinters have done a remarkable job of testing the hypotheses associated with the primary physical component characteristics relating to human running performance.  Training theorists applying accepted scientific principles have given middle distance coaches an outstanding roadmap for setting up training plans specifically emphasizing speed and strength.  In addition to recent gains pure scientific knowledge, speed-related terminology has been standardized so that coaches can communicate in a more effective manner when discussing training.

Read: Periodizing Special Endurance 1 Training Sessions 

The training sessions that coaches refer to as Special Endurance 2 work are an important part of every 12 day middle distance microcycle.  Sprinters, middle distance and true distance runners all make it a part of their training on a scale of emphasis relative to the length of their race distance.  The differences between Special Endurance 2 work done by sprinters and distance runners are few (Table 1.), with the most evident being a bit greater session volume with distance runners and a little faster workout pace by sprinters because of a longer rest interval.


Special Endurance 2 training sessions change for middle distance runners as the four training periods in a macrocycle progress.  During the General Preparation Period the Lactate Response Coefficient is undeveloped and VO2 max is at its lowest point of the macrocycle.  In practical terms, a middle distance runner is unable to tolerate much lactate and hydrogen ion presence without fatiguing, and recovery between the repeats is neither fast, nor efficient.  Special Endurance 2 work during the General Preparation Period is on an occasional basis only.  The sessions should be in the characteristic 300-600 meter range and the rest should be some of the shortest of the season despite the runners’ lack of fitness (Table 2).  During this training period heart rate will be high but velocity will be low as the runner fights through the workout with rapidly increasing glycolytic fatigue.  The slower velocity of the runner, because of the shorter rest interval, will keep the chance of injury low.  The typical middle distance runner at this time just cannot achieve much force production despite massive motor recruitment.

Coaching Resource: Advanced Topics in Cross Country Training Symposium 

Training modalities change as a middle distance runner transitions into the Specific Preparation Period and this is evident in the work sessions that are prescribed as Special Endurance 2 activities.  The work distance remains in the same range, but increasing rest intervals lead to greater force production and faster efforts (Table 2).  Lactate tolerance is improving, as is aerobic development from long runs, recovery runs and tempo runs, which greatly aids recovery during the rest interval.

The Pre-Competitive Period is characterized by high fitness in the athletes and competitions and work sessions that are quite intense.  Middle distance runners are working at the highest intensities and greatest volumes of the season in all of their work including Special Endurance 2 sessions (Table 2).  The rest interval is the most important decision a coach can make during this period of training.  The training goal is to push the blood lactate up as high as possible over the 300-600 meter work distance, and then allow enough partial recovery to push that lactate up to that high level again and do this repeatedly over the total Special Endurance 2 session.  The performance on each work repeat should not deteriorate and enough rest has to be built in to maintain that very fast pace with high lactate levels.

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Most championship meets are held in a small window of time of 18 to 25 days at the end of the macrocycle.  This is the Competition Period.  The training goal is to maintain fitness rather than develop fitness.  The races are by far the main focus and the Special Endurance 2 activities need to fit properly into the competition schedule.  Work done at this time is characterized by low volume and very high intensity (Table 2).  This level of intensity can only occur with near-complete recovery during the rest intervals.  This is called repetition running and the stimulus is capacity over efficiency.  Muscle force production is extremely high. There is a very high Lactate Response Coefficient present and VO2 max is at its highest point due to all of the completed aerobic work.  Be very careful with athletes and make sure they train but do not strain through these Special Endurance 2 workouts.  


Special Endurance 2 training sessions should be done throughout the length of the track season for middle distance runners in order to gain the necessary lactate tolerance.


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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