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Why I *LOVE* 400's (for the most part) (Read 944 times)

    What follows is LONG. Truly. Even by my standards. A small novel. I should copyright it. In fact: consider it copyrighted. So there. It’s really that long. And it's not edited. So enjoy the typos. Cool It was a lot of fun, and really educational, but it’s loooooooong. So be warned. If you plan to tackle it, grab a comfy pillow and a cool beverage. Probably a snack, too. Some Gu maybe. And Eric … payment’s on its way. Wink ------------------------------------------------- I – of course – now have to offer a defense of 400s, don’t I? Roll eyes And I do, in fact, just about love them (for the most part). (By the way: I discovered two things doing the research that follows. First – it was fascinating! Second – debate over this very topic isn’t just common, it’s rampant. I thought the flexibility debate, or the long run max distance issue, would be hot. Nope. I found some truly hot – and truly funny – arguments over everything that follows, including some between real-life experts who often reached exactly opposite conclusions. So, as with everything else – your mileage may vary.) I offer the following in response to this thread: http://runningahead.com/frm_topic.aspx?id=d0eed7e287e94a0780e63176c6306f5a&p=0 Here’s a preview: I’m going to start a little surprisingly with a little Socratic ju-jitsu, and emphatically *agree* with Mikey’s basic premise. Not only am I going to agree, I’m going to explain why I agree – and where my agreement comes from! Shocking, ain’t it? But in the end, I’m going to try to explain why I *love* 400s (for the most part), why I think, in general, for most runners at most distances (up to HM), they are the most efficient interval, not only despite my agreements Mikey’s premise – but actually because of them. Confused? Here’s my stab at it. I agree specifically with this part, and particularly the parts I’m emphasizing:
    400 meter repeats, due in large part to the utter simplicity of being exactly one lap of an outdoor track, are a staple of many training programs whether for high school middle distance runners or adult marathoners. I cannot tell you how many 400s I've run in my life, except to say too many. I also tend to think they are one of the most overrated and potentially dangerous workouts out there. Here's why: for most of us they are too short to be an effective VO2max workout, and they are too long to be a pure speed workout. For pure speed, I think it is important that the reps be under 60 seconds in duration--otherwise you accumulate too much lactate and instead of a speed maintenance session you wind up having a pretty deep effort. And depending upon what phase of training you are in, accumulating lactate can have some pretty negative results on aerobic capacity--that's right you'll actually get slower not faster at 5k on up if you run too many short fast reps. This is especially true for runners without a huge aerobic base. So unless you are an elite athlete who can turn 400s in around 60, 400s are too long for pure speed. For me, 300's with full recoveries are as long as I ever go for pure speed reps. For VO2Max, or interval speed (what most people think of when they say speedwork) you will improve most rapidly with intervals of 2 to 6 minutes in duration. This makes 400's a bit too short or on the very low end of the spectrum for most of us. And even if 400s fall within the 2:00 - 6:00 minute range for you, I still think they are short enough that there is too much of a chance of running them too hard and going anaerobic--with the same negative results as above.
    Ignore for the moment the logical paradox between the first emphasized bit and the second two (the fact that he’s both right that 400s remain a staple interval distance – and that there also theoretical reasons to choose different distances. I’ll get to that. Trust me. It’s actually my point.) Here’s why I agree with the latter two sections, based on the science – at least IN THEORY. That “in theory” part will be important later. And since I’m (ahem) a newbie among experts with varying degrees of experience, rather than toss my own opinions out there, I’ll just defer to some real experts. I am going to quibble right away with two minor points, one of which is entirely personal. He advocates 300m for pure speedwork; I’d say 200m – for *ME*. But note that this is actually a confirmation of his argument, rather than opposition – because it’s based on our relative speeds. I can maintain a 200m sprint; at 300m I can’t. But the difference is our basic fitness levels and talent, not the science. My second distinction is going to be the 2:00 to 6:00 window; Jack Daniels suggests no more than 5 minutes at VO2 max, and I think he’s right – again, at least for *ME* (and probably for most average runners). But again, the basic science is the same – and it’s minor. I’ll get to it more on a minute. I want to start with Mikey’s most basic point: that anything over 60 seconds is too fast for pure speed work, that a 400m (for many people) is too short for V02 max/interval speed, and that prime “distance” for VO2 max work should be “between 2 and 6 minutes.” The first key point here: he’s right that the distance argument is meaningless; I think (and I’m confident I’ll be correct if I’m wrong) that Mikey believes that time run at V02 max is the key, rather than distance. I’m assuming he’s basing that on Pfitzinger; or maybe Pfitzinger’s basing his identical opinions on Mikey? Either way, I’m going to refer to Pfitzinger because he provides (I think) the clearest understanding of the principle, at least for us newbies. First, here’s Pfitzinger’s basic foundation for establishing interval pace:
    The most effective running intensity to improve your VO2 max is 95 percent to 100 percent of your current VO2 max. Well-trained runners can run at VO2 max pace for about eight minutes. Ninety-five percent to 100 percent of VO2 max coincides with current 3,000 meter to 5,000 meter race pace. This typically coincides with an intensity of approximately 94 to 98 percent of maximal heart rate or 93 to 98 percent of heart rate reserve. Running your intervals at this pace or intensity is part of the optimal strategy to improve your VO2 max.
    Jack Daniels puts it like this (and you’ll see his 5 minute versus 6 minute thing pop up here):
    I Pace. The next important training velocity is the one that stresses and improves V02max V02max-interval (I) velocity. The intensity here should be equal to vVO2max- I believe most people should shoot for 98% - 100% of HRmax, rather than always demanding a 100% value, if using heart-rate as a guide. This is suggested because if maximum heart rate coincides with a pace of 6:00 per mile, for example, then certainly 5:50 or any pace faster than 6-minute pace will also elicit maximum heart rate, but is too fast for the purpose of the training session -- optimum result with the least possible stress. No single run, which makes up a series of Intervals, should exceed 5-minutes.
    Both Daniels and Pfitzinger explicitly agree with the basic idea that the whole point of VO2 max work is to remain at that effort level for as long as optimally possible – without running into lactate problems. Assuming the runner is putting for the proper effort/pace, that creates a window from (just like Mikey said) from between 2:00 – 6:00 (or 2-5, take your pick.). What that means (if you do the math) for a lot of people is – again, just like Mikey said – 400’s turn out to be a little short for VO2 max work. While it is emphatically wrong according to the same math to argue that they’re “useless” – since there is clearly some VO2 benefit – there is an obvious argument that they’re far from the most EFFICIENT distance. Why? Because you just don’t remain at VO2 max for very long! Pfitzinger explains it like this, and it makes a lot of sense to me:
    The stimulus to improve your VO2 max is provided by the amount of time you accumulate during a workout in the optimal intensity range of 95 percent to 100 percent of VO2 max. This has implications for how best to structure your VO2 max sessions. Consider two workouts that each include 6,000 meters of intervals—one of 15 x 400 meters, the other of 5 x 1200 meters. When you run 400-meter repetitions, you’re in the optimal zone for perhaps 45 seconds per interval. If you do 15 repetitions, you would accumulate just over 11 minutes at the optimal intensity. When you run longer intervals, you are in the optimal intensity zone much longer. During each 1,200-meter interval, you would be in the optimal intensity zone for three to four minutes, and would accumulate 15 to 20 minutes in that zone during the workout. This would provide a stronger stimulus to improve your VO2 max.
    Jack Daniels makes essentially the same point (with that minor – yet important later – 5:00 minute maximum distinction). His point, that he repeats over and over, is that it’s not DISTANCE but TIME at VO2 max that matters:
    In this way, time dictates the workout. Going for over five minutes results in too much blood lactate accumulation, so avoid mile repeats if your interval pace is above a five-minute mile. You might find you can schedule at most three times around the track in a single bout; so be it. Note, though, that five-minute bouts are excellent to achieve prolonged running at VO2max. You should run these often in your sessions regardless of how far you get. Rely on the feeling of stress you experience, and not on a pre-determined distance goal over a certain time.
    In fact, Daniels actually prescribes interval workouts by TIME rather than distance. Here’s a sample that I plan to try when I’m a little bit faster. If you do the math, you’ll notice that translated to distance, the intervals are actually somewhat shorter than 400m and somewhat longer – in other words, aimed at Mikey’s point of both pure speedwork and some VO2 max work:
    Here's a sample workout for a runner at 6:00/mile interval pace (:90/400m): six 2:00 runs with 1:00 recoveries; eight 1:00 runs with: 30 recoveries; eight: 30 runs with: 15 recoveries. This totals 24:00 at interval pace and 12:00 easy, for a 36:00 session. The time spent at VO2max is comparable to a workout of three- and five-minute runs with longer recoveries.
    One last Pfitzinger quote and I’m done making Mikey look good, I promise (and I think I’ll have to split this up into two posts. And send Eric some bucks for bandwidth  ). I’m including it because I think it simplifies the reason why – for faster runners at least – 400m intervals are not the most efficient forms of VO2 max work:
    As discussed in common training mistake #1, to improve your VO2 max you need to accumulate time running at, or close to, your current VO2 max. Your aerobic system, however, doesn’t reach VO2 max as soon as you start an interval. It can take up to a minute for your cardiovascular system to work at its maximal capacity. If you run intervals of 400 meters or less, therefore, you will not accumulate much time in the optimal intensity range. The best way to rack up time at VO2 max over the course of a workout is to run intervals of two to six minutes duration.
    There’s that key point again: maximum improvement most efficient training comes from maximizing time at VO2 max. And again I point out: it’s not that 400m intervals don’t offer VO2 benefit – it’s that the degree varies with the base speed and fitness of the runner, and that for faster runners (those running a 400m in well under 2:00 minutes, for example), it’s just not the most efficient method. Because you just aren’t spending the optimal amount of time in the “zone.” With me so far? Anyone disagree with any of the above? If so – sound off, and let me know why and what specifically you’re arguing. A couple quick points before I paradoxically discount all of the above and jump on the 400m bandwagon: First, ALL of the discussion on speedwork/intervals has to be put in the context of basic fitness, and specificity of training. I think it’s safe to say it’s a universal idea that – IF you decide to do intervals – you won’t be training the same for 5-k and a marathon. All of my comments on the subject, here and elsewhere, are based on 5-k/10k distances. Even though plenty of experts *DO* suggest 400m intervals all the way up to a half marathon (and as Mikey notes, even though plenty of adult marathoners do them), I’m not defending 400s for distances beyond 10-k. (I’d still do them – but mostly ‘cuz they’re fun. Not based on science). In fact, here’s something from Senor Daniels on specificity of training that emphasizes the point:
    Training principle #2 - Specificity of training. The system which is stressed is the one which stands to benefit from the stress. While training for one particular sport usually has little or no beneficial effect on your ability to perform a second sport, in some cases there may actually be a detrimental effect.
    Second, after researching all of the above – I openly admit that in the next year or two, despite my fondness for 400s, I plan to jump right back OFF the 400m bandwagon. I think that (depending on race distance), it’s safe to say that if you’re going to intervals, and you’ve developed both some significant base mileage and some minimal level of speed – mixing it up might be wise. I personally plan to try a couple programs more like traditional pyramid intervals (as in reps of 200m/400m/800/m etc) … or to split up speed work between 200m pure speed work and probably 1200m VO2 max work. We’ll see how that goes. Maybe I’ll come right back to 400s. Which reminds me … now for the fun part. And I’ll just stick it in the next post. After taking a coffee break. My fingers hurt. ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
    -----------------------------

      --------------------------------------------------------------------- Mmm. Starbucks. Okay, here we go. Let’s start with that paradox in Mikey’s post: he’s right on both counts – 400m intervals have been the staple for at least 50 years, and they’re still the most commonly seen interval, at just about any distance. And yet I just established why I think there might be more efficient options (at least for faster runners.) So what’s up with that? Well, first I better support that premise I just made (and I’ve pointed out repeatedly elsewhere): that 400s are STILL the interval of choice, for almost every distance up to a half marathon and beyond. I’ll even go further: among all the major writers, 400m intervals DOMINATE training programs. Hell, for many of them they’re pretty common even in MARATHON programs. For a 10-k/5-k, they are without doubt the go-to interval. If a “running expert” is going to focus on one distance, it’s 400 meters. Almost every time. And I’m not even sure about the “almost.” I only include it because somebody out there must be the exception. But it certainly holds true generally, especially among the most popular writers. Galloway mentions nothing but 400s until you hit HM distance. Same for Hal Higdon – who is both arguably the most followed running writer around – and who has a true fetish for 400m intervals, advocating nothing else even at half marathon distance (which, frankly, I don’t particularly agree with!) Another thing worth noting: even though folks like Pfitzinger make all of the above arguments about that 2-6 minute window – even HE stresses 400s more often than not. (His link follows somewhere). Back to Higdon in a minute. He’s going to be my guinea pig. But just to point out how truly dominant the 400m interval is as a suggested distance, he’s a couple links. Some use them exclusively; some use them with other distances; some use them only sparingly, or at different points in training. All are interesting. (Just imagine if I’d clicked “next” on the search engine window a couple times) http://home.sprynet.com/~holtrun/marainte.htm http://www.transitiontimes.com/viewstory.cfm?ID=8437 http://www.ingnycmarathon.org/training/trainingprogram.php http://mysite.verizon.net/jim2wr/id24.html http://www.halhigdon.com/10ktraining/10kinter.htm http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_4/138.shtml http://home.sprynet.com/~holtrun/20week.htm http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/0004.htm http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,ss6-238-244--1117-2-5X8X10-4,00.html http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NHF/is_4_18/ai_86649616 http://www.sportingperformance.co.uk/10kandhalfmarathon.htm#25-30miles http://www.tidewaterstriders.com/fitfortheriverrun/advancedtraining.htm http://www.ultrunr.com/lydiard.html http://www.pfitzinger.com/effectiveplan.shtml http://www.iatfcc.org/distance%20-%20track%20&%20field.html http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_1/tabloid-training.shtml http://www.tamartrotters.co.uk/training_schedules/marathon_schedule.htm http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/news/article.asp?UAN=1489 http://www.endurancecoach.com/Run_Intervals.htm http://www.runningonline.com/zine/Marathons/Training/ I’d guess that’s enough to make the point. So WTF, right? How can Mikey be right on both points – that 400s “are a staple of many training programs whether for high school middle distance runners or adult marathoners” – and yet they might not be the most efficient VO2 max training (again, at least for faster runners)? Before I offer my explanation – and why I love 400s – go check Higdon’s program’s even if you don’t follow the other links. Here’s his 10-k intermediate program: http://www.halhigdon.com/10ktraining/10kinter.htm And here’s his half-marathon intermediate program: http://www.halhigdon.com/halfmarathon/inter.htm I’m focusing on him because (in my opinion) his programs (and his books) offer both the best model of this 400 meter emphasis and the best explanation for why they’re emphasized. Plus, everyone seems to read him. Important note: if you surf around his site, you’ll find that he also suggests 400m even for his ADVANCED 10-k programs. But then look at his advanced half marathon program. See what he does? Yep – he suddenly introduces 800s, 1600s, and more hills. If I’m right about all of the above – I think it’s exactly because of Mikey’s premise: that need to get to VO2 max for 2-5 (or 2-6) minutes, which advanced runners training for a HM won’t be doing at 400 meters. Okay, so I’m finally getting to it. Is Higdon crazy? Is Galloway? Are all those folks in al those links crazy? Is Pfitzinger actually suffering from multiple personality disorder? I don’t think so. I think they’re actually very, very smart. And it’s why I’m gonna stick with my (very occasional) 400s for now. We take a pause for a message from our sponsor: A personal aside: I forgot to note a couple things (How, you ask? In all these words? Seems unlikely, doesn’t it?). First, as much as I’m enjoying this, I think the debate is mostly off target. I think a much more relevant debate would ask questions like: should you do speed work at all? What kind? Tempo or fartlek? What about distance – as in, how does the advice vary between a 5-k and a HM? Should you do speed work at all for a marathon? Is there *EVER* a reason to do intervals (unless like some of us, you just kinda dig ‘em)? If so, how soon do you start? At what base mileage and speed? Those are just a handful of the questions I’d like addressed; I hope somebody makes a “general speed work” thread and gets the ball rolling! Second, I’ve got to admit a bias: even forgetting the experts, I like 400s because they’ve worked for me. At least, I think so. My recent 10-k was a happy 3 minutes faster than any before it. While I’m certain that my increased mileage, my week-to-week consistency, and a lot of hills explains some of it – I’m sticking to crediting my (very occasional) 400s with some of it. Is that rational? Maybe not. But it’s my story, and explains my bias. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming: What follows is no longer expert commentary, but alleged “newbie” commentary. I’m speculating as to why Higdon, Galloway et al are so into 400s. It’s all a guess. Take it for what it’s what it’s worth. But it’s why I like them – and why I’m sticking with 400s. My whole theory can be summed up with a little story that golfers might appreciate. It’s a little analogy that explains why golf sucks. No, wait, that’s not it. No – it explains why I think Higdon isn’t wrong, but very right to recommend 400s. Here’s the deal: I’m a crappy golfer. I love it, but I suck. For a long time, I’d say that when I break 100, I’m having fun. When I break 90, it’s a good day. You get the picture. So a few years ago, I got semi-serious about the lessons. I took them from a family friend and good coach, a great golfer – he’d actually played on the senior PGA tour. He analyzed my swing and immediately got very specific. He had me doing drills involving hip torque, shoulder placement, hand placement, hand position, thumb position, grip strength … well, I could go on for awhile. Let’s just say he was the equivalent of Jack Daniels … but for golf, not running. Extensive discussion of theory and science, focusing on the details – and the WHYS behind his suggestions. The golfers among you can guess what happened: I quickly became horribly frustrated, felt like breaking my clubs, and my handicap actually got WORSE. For a while, 100 became a good day. It was ugly. Ugh. Then a couple years ago, I’m on a cruise ship and sign up for a single lesson from this very cute Australian babe. Hitting balls into that movie screen thingie. Just for fun. I hit a few balls, she watched me a while. And then she said one thing: Straighten your left arm. That’s it. End of lesson. For the next 29 minutes and 30 seconds of the half hour, we did drills to MAKE me get my left arm straighter. She didn’t offer a word of “theory.” Didn’t even bother. Just kept pushing my arm back. (For the record: I later spent the time figuring out the theory, understanding why that not straightening my arm enough was limiting my power, creating mishits, and giving a bad swing. And here’s a funny but true joke: once I understood the theory – and focused on that rather than the basic fundamental – I got all screwed up again. There’s a lesson there, methinks …) So what happened? Golfers can probably guess this to. My first round back home, I easily shot an 85. Those over 100 rounds disappeared. By focusing on one broad element I was missing, I reaped a massive improvement. I assume my point is ridiculously clear? That first coach was Daniels or Pfitzinger. Probably a far smarter coach, at least in theory. If I was training to win a local golf tourney, he’d be my guy. But the Australian shiela? Well, she as Higdon. Or Galloway. Probably not as good at the science of golf, probably not up on the theory – but able to offer some solid fundamentals that were a big help for MOST golfers in MOST situations. Simple things. Keep your eye on the ball = make sure you recover between runs. Take a full swing = get in some long runs to build endurance. And straighten your damn arm, Jake? Well … I say that’s the equivalent of “think about running some basic intervals now and then …” There’s my argument in a nutshell (help! I’m in a nutshell!) why I love 400s, and why they’ll still be popular even long after Mikey and David Hasselhoff elope to Switzerland and settle in a nice home on Cape Cod. But since this isn’t QUITE long enough, I’ll get specific: 1) I’ll let Mikey say it for me: they’re popular in part due “to the utter simplicity of being exactly one lap of an outdoor track.” Yup. If that track was 500 meters, that’d be the distance we’d be discussing. 2) Key point # 1: they’re simple. Higdon and Galloway and all the others are writing with one very specific purpose: to meet the needs of the broadest range of running abilities and runners focused on the widest possible race distances range. 400s simplify some interval fundamentals, for most runners. They provide SOME VO2 benefit, and SOME pure speed work benefit. As a general prescription, they’ll make the biggest difference to the most people. And that helps fill Galloway’s wallet. It’s not an accident that 400s are actually most popular among the most popular writers … and that the most popular writers seem to be the simplest. Complicated is scary for us noobs; simple isn’t. Tell me to go run 6 x 400, and I’ll figure it out. Get complicated on me, and I might not. Simple wins. 3) Key point # 2 – the edumakasion factor: similar to the last point, but it’s worth making. Once a beginner or intermediate runner – which is most of us out here – decides to give intervals a try, all that VO2 stuff can be, well, confusing. We’re back to my Australian friend: give me ONE thing to work on. Save where you want my pinky on the handle for later – give me something big I can do. Running one lap at a time is perfect. I may be digging the chemistry and biology at the moment, but I think it’s a turn-off for a lot of people. 4) Maybe the biggest key point – the DIFFICULTY FACTOR. 400s just aren’t that hard. They may be less efficient – but I hope we’ll all agree that less than optimum efficiency is better than just skipping it (assuming, of course, that we’re doing intervals at all). For somebody aiming for that sub 1:00 10-k, there is clear VO2 benefit in running a series of 2:30 400s. Wouldn’t 5:00-5:30 800s be better? Seems like it, doesn’t it? I think so – if I’m reading all of the above right. But that’s hard, man. Hard work. (Not to mention that you’re now flirting with lactate problems, at least according to Daniels). That runner can’t do 1200s yet, not at VO2 max. And something like 4 x 800 is probably going to feel pretty grim. Which brings to a few similar points: 5) Assuming always that we’ve decided to do intervals – I think we can all agree that you don’t gain anything if you’re just NOT doing the program you decided on. I’ll use me as an example: I think, according to Pfitzinger, I should probably mix up fast 200m’s for speedwork and 1200m intervals for VO2 max benefit, at somewhere around 1:45-2:00 per 400. Now I admit I *CAN* do it (although again, that upper range is on the edge of Pfitzinger’s lactate barrier and way past Daniels’). But it’s not much fun. Truly. And if it’s bad enough to keep me from doing it, I’ll take less efficient 400s over nothing at all. Which brings me to … 6) The FUN factor: 400s are fun. Really fun. Us slowpokes don’t get to run fast very often, but I can now do a single 400 at sub-5:00 mile pace. I can do sets of intervals comfortably at 7:00 mile pace, and I’ve done sets at 1:30 6-minute pace (although its definitely too fast to do much but be fun). Why is fun important? Because fun keeps me coming back! If my regular runs and my long runs weren’t fun, I wouldn’t be doing them, either. I really don’t know if you elites can completely grasp this point; or maybe you’re just having fun at a faster pace. But I *KNOW* that whatever I do, it’s got to be fun to keep my motivation up. Without speaking for them, I strongly suspect that holds true for most beginner to average runners. Give them some brutal intervals to do, and – if they manage not to hurt themselves – they may just decide to skip intervals, or skip running altogether. 400s (especially at my slowpoke pace) are the perfect compromise. Fast enough for some benefit – easy enough to be fun. Here’s Olympic triathlon coach making this point:
      400m efforts A common trend in European athletes are high rep 400's that is 15-25x400m at 10,000m pace. Is this more effective than say 8x1000m? Well the 400's (if run in a controlled manner) don't leave you as taxed, yet you can cover a great distance at or near race pace. It is hard to cover the same distance at the same pace in 800-1600m reps hence the value.
      Okay, maybe “fun” isn’t the point here – but “do-ability” is. Better those 400s at a pace and total distance you will (and can) do – then longer intervals that you can’t or won’t. 7) They offer at least SOME benefit in terms of both speed work (especially leg speed) and VO2 max work. This one is sheer speculation and it’ll meet with opposition, but I think it’s true. For most average runners doing tons of slow miles at 11:00+ pace, there is real benefit to just getting those legs moving faster once in a while. 400 meters accomplishes that. It’s a first step to doing real 100-300 sprint type work. At the same time, it offers at least SOME VO2 max benefit – and interestingly, it’s probably better the slower you get. If your best is a 3:00 400, that’s some decent time at VO2 max per rep. Frankly, my own 400s are questionable on this: if I’m doing 8x400 at 1:45, I’m at the very edge of not getting a lot of appreciable VO2 max work. (Which is why I also alternate a few 800s in there, or at least I’m planning to. I think 800, for me, is probably the best bet – although other suggestions are more than welcome!) 8) They’re safe. Or at least, comparatively safe. Again, this assumes our hypothetical runner is doing them at all. If so – for the average runner, in my opinion, true sprints are dangerous. I LOVE doing 200s and even 100s … but my old legs seem unsure of the idea. I think (and this is purely my opinion, based on my own legs), that for most average to beginner runners, anything much SHORTER than 400s has a high risk of injury. But with a decent base and a good warm-up, I don’t think somebody doing 2:15-2:30 400s is likely to get hurt. (On the other hand, I’ll concede that me pushing 1:25-1:30 400s once in a while might get ME hurt). 9) Another key: the final reason they’re so popular is because they’re the perfect generalist distance for most runners. There is no doubt that for those focusing on 5-k’s or marathons, there are probably better intervals. And for those comfortably doing 10x400 at 70 second pace, I think you’re probably missing the boat if you think the 400s are giving much VO2 max benefit. But for most average runners, wanting something simple, that will benefit them in both pure speed terms and VO2 max terms … and that will benefit them whether they’re doing a 5-k or a half marathon … 400m intervals are the best answer. And I think above all else, the combination of the fun principle, the simple principle, and this generalist approach, is why 400s are stressed by so many at so many distances. Whew. There you go. Have at it. Rip ‘er up. If you have questions, ask. If you think I’m nuts, point out where and why. You’ll have to forgive me though if my response are short; the word bank is about tapped out. If anyone got this far, congrats. I want YOU running marathons beside me. You’re very dedicated. Or insane. Both are good. But that’s the (exhaustive and exhausted) version of why I love 400s (for the most part), and why (I think) most people do (for the most part). I desperately need a beer, and since I’m woman-free for tonight, I’m going to get one. And drink them in sets. I plan on 6 beers X 15:00 per beer. But I’ll do some stretching first. Modified: only to fix the links. You fix the typos. It's beer thirty.
      E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
      -----------------------------


      gimme some sugar, baby

        Jake, you are awesome. I'll probably have to wait till the weekend to read this, but I look forward to it!
        George: Runner/Law Student
        www.gimme-five.com
          Jake - you're kind of funny sometimes. Wink In your golf story, you talked about how someone going on and on and giving 50,000,000 different pointers ended up having a net negative effect... And then you go on and on ... and... end up losing your audience. Good points about shorter intervals being a little more fun and easier for the masses. I just don't want to have to read for40 minutes to get there...

          Roads were made for journeys...

          Scout7


          CPT Curmudgeon

            A) Simplicity: 800 is TWO laps. That's pretty simple too. Also, one of the reasons many coaches advocate time is because A) Not everyone has access to a marked distance, and B) The claim that the body knows time, not distance, so distance is irrelevant. You said yourself, and quoted no less, that time is the real factor here, not distance. So if you're going to make it really simple, why not do it based on time, and ditch the track altogether? That would be much simpler than having to do set repeats on a track. B) The science: You can be running for a long time and never even worry about it, regardless of what your chosen plan(s) tell you. I don't think this has much to do with why 400s are used at all. If anything, it would be a good reason NOT to do them, as you pointed out. C) The "fun" factor: OK, that's a personal call there. Personally, I HATE HATE HATE anything involving the track. And I ran track. Partly why I hate it. It's the devil; it ranks at the same level as the dreadmill for me. I get absolutely no joy from running in little circles, regardless of how short I am going. Give me tempo and hill workouts any day. As for my own personal point of view on all of this....You are right about OTHER questions that should be asked. There will always be advocates of 400s. There will always be detractors of 400s. The real questions should be WHY are you doing them, and WHEN are you doing them. I personally will not do 400s. Why? Because I'm generally training for events longer than a 10K, or a tri. Not to say that I won't do a 5k or a 5 miler. But that's not what I'm specifically training for. Also, I want to note that all the Higdon plans you showed were at the Intermediate level. Remember, the beginner plans have NO speedwork involved at all, generally speaking. Which brings up the WHEN issue. If you've been running less than a year, DON'T DO ANY SPEEDWORK. If you've been injured within the past year, DON'T DO ANY SPEEDWORK. One of the most compelling reasons not to do speedwork of any kind is the prevalence of injuries. The reason is A) They really take it out of you, and stress your system, and B) Lack of proper recovery the next few days. Speedwork generally requires longer recovery than most people give. If you do more than 2 of these types of workouts a week, that's a good recipe for injury.
              Scout, I agree you can run forever and get pretty fast without ever studying any of the science. Truth is 90% of my workouts are by time, on the roads. Two staples for me are 8 x 2 minutes on / 1 minute off at 10K+ ~5-10 secs. and 3 x 8 minutes on / 3 minutes off at tempo to HMP. Jake, I don't find any fault with most of your rationale for liking 400s. You agreed with most of what I was saying in the other thread anyway. But point #8 about them being safe--I don't think you can really compare 100s or 200s with 400s. They are for different purposes, at least in my mind. And even when you are doing 100s or 200s for pure speed, these should not be sprints. I think that's a major misconception. The type of pure speed that a distance runner needs is more like mile pace to 3k pace. So if you need to do 400s to slow yourself down to mile or 2 mile pace then you're still taking on too much injury risk, imo. This is another reason why I do most of my pure speed sessions (strides) on the roads by time as well. I do 8 x 20 seconds on / 40 seconds off or 6 x 30 seconds on / 1 minute off on a flat stretch of road. That way I can focus on hitting the right effort (i.e. quick but not a sprint), for that amount of time.

              Runners run.

                But point #8 about them being safe--I don't think you can really compare 100s or 200s with 400s. They are for different purposes, at least in my mind. And even when you are doing 100s or 200s for pure speed, these should not be sprints. I think that's a major misconception. The type of pure speed that a distance runner needs is more like mile pace to 3k pace. So if you need to do 400s to slow yourself down to mile or 2 mile pace then you're still taking on too much injury risk, imo. This is another reason why I do most of my pure speed sessions (strides) on the roads by time as well. I do 8 x 20 seconds on / 40 seconds off or 6 x 30 seconds on / 1 minute off on a flat stretch of road. That way I can focus on hitting the right effort (i.e. quick but not a sprint), for that amount of time.
                Out of curiosity - how often do you do the shorter "sprints?" (Note the quotes - I just called them "sprints" cuz I can't think of a better word. And at what effort? As in, if you were doing a 200 on a track, what would your time be roughly? And do you insert the 8 x 20 secs thing into a specific kind of longer workout? Does anybody do "sorta sprints" shorter than 200? Does it help for 5-k training? And questions like that is why I shoulda just started a general speed work thread. Cuz I have lots of questions on the subject, and now I'm highjacking my own novel.
                Jake, you are awesome. I'll probably have to wait till the weekend to read this, but I look forward to it!
                I'd skip it and read War and Peace instead. Or something by Chaucer or Melville. You'll save time.
                E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
                -----------------------------

                  Jake, I do strides twice a week. I've been doing it that way for about the last 6 months. I used to do them only once a week, but I think twice a week works better. Not only do strides help maintain basic speed, leg turnover, develop a more powerful stride...they also help keep your hamstrings strong and not tight. So usually I include 8 x 20 seconds on Tuesdays and Fridays in the middle of an otherwise easy 6.8 mile run. I do the strides on a flat stretch of road along a lake after about three miles of easy running. I have done 100s and 200s strides on the track for basic speed as well but I like doing them on the roads better because I feel like I have less of a tendency to do them too hard that way. When I have done them on the track, I try to hit 200s around 38 secs and 100s around 18-19. Actually I got in the habit of NOT timing 100's because then I would always end up creeping down to 17 secs or less and that becomes a pretty hard sprint. So I would just do them by effort. If you are sore at all the day after strides, you did them too hard. Strides should take almost no recovery. There's nothing wrong with a pure sprint workout either--where you are going pretty close to all out. If you want to get fast at the 400 through 1 mile then you need to do some of this. Here you would start--after a long warm-up--with maybe 2 x 200 where you run the first 100m at about mile pace then go "all out" out to the finish. You would then do a FULL recovery (several minutes of walking, jogging, stretching) before doing another one. You could add 1 per week until you are doing maybe 6 or 8 like this. You WILL feel sore after a workout like this and you'll need a couple of recovery days. This would definitely make you a faster sprinter, but would have little benefit if your goal is 5k and up.

                  Runners run.

                  Scout7


                  CPT Curmudgeon

                    http://www.runningtimes.com/rt/articles/?id=5010&c=359 Pfitzinger talking about peaking for a race, but gets into intervals. He specifically mentions 400s, and the usefulness.