This doesn’t seem that difficult a task.
400m, is, after all, 400m, but there are several interesting questions: what race are you actually training for, and what energy system do you want to train.
Let’s talk about energy systems
Whoever invented the human body was a bit of a ‘worry puss’– they felt that one energy system just wasn’t safe enough. Rather like the householder who has a real fire place, electric storage heaters and gas central heating. Some would call that greedy, but a cautious person would call it prudent..
The human body has three energy systems.
One for fast reactive movement (diving under a car to save your three-year-old toddler),
A slower, more extended, but still, a pretty snappy system (for running 350 metres, then diving under a car to save your three-year-old toddler).
Finally, there is the long-term ‘trickle’ energy system (the one you use while shoe shopping, running 5k, miles away from any toddlers)
For people who have little experience of toddlers, these ‘metabolic engines’ are known as the:
■ The first, the phosphagen, dominates the highest-powered activities (100-metre sprint), those that last less than about ten seconds.
■ The second pathway, the glycolytic, dominates moderate-powered activities, those that last up to several minutes (400-800 metre run).
■ The third pathway, the oxidative, dominates low-powered activities, those that last in excess of several minutes (5k run, walking, shopping).
They all use slightly different energy producing mechanisms, which isn’t the subject of this article. The subject is, how long do you need to leave it between goes?
Think of 100m, you can run that “balls to the wall” or you could jog it.
Here is the question. How soon could you do it again at the same pace?
So let’s say you run 100m (flat out, the fastest you’ve ever done) in 20 seconds* and collapse in a hysterical sobbing heap as you hyperventilate, and drool. If I make you go straight back, you’ll possibly stagger back in 30/40 seconds, while whining annoyingly!
So if you used the phosphagen pathway, I suspect you’ll need 11 times your time to recover. If you run 100m in 20 seconds, you probably need 220 seconds to recover to attempt the same pace again.
A simple principle is this, the slower you go, the less recovery you need, so, if you were to run 400m in 2 minutes, you probably want a 1-2-1 work rest period, so run 400m in 2 mins, rest 2 mins.
This helps you monitor consistency, otherwise, so some argue, you are not training or developing pace and capacity. If you run 400m in 1.40, mini/erratic rest 1.50, mini/erratic rest, 2.00 mini/erratic rest 2.10 the argument is that you are simply surviving, not training.
So 2 take-home points
- Training needs non-emotional work and consistency to be successful
- It’s always the distance, plus the time it took you, plus the effective rest periods
( *for the sports pedants among you, if you run 100m in 20 seconds it’s not really phosphagen is probably a mix of what some call Anaerobic Alactic Endurance/ capacity, but the principle will hold for now)