Triathlon Magazine Canada
THREE RUNNING WORKOUTS TO IMPROVE YOUR SPEED
IN MY MIND, the 400 m is the perfect interval distance. It’s used by every kind of runner, from sprinters to marathoners – proving its extreme versatility in application. As an 800m runner myself, I cover roughly 75 to 80 km a week, and 400 m repeats are a staple in that mileage.
For triathletes, the one-lap-around interval incorporates some necessary speed work into (what tends to be) a pretty aerobically-focused training program. Speed work has its place in every endurance plan, as it has been shown to improve a runner’s lactate threshold (a fancy word for when lactic acid accumulates in the bloodstream and slows you down).
Below are three different 400 m-based workouts triathletes can do to improve two things: their speed and ability to run on tired legs. Each workout has volume appropriate for the half-distance, but can be easily tweaked based on the mileage you’d like to accomplish that day. If you don’t have track access, a 400 m stretch of road or gravel trail will work just fine.
12 x 400 m on one minute rest
This is one of my all-time favorite workouts. When done properly, your last 400 m should be your best (and fastest) and feel difficult (but not impossible).
The goal is to do 12 repetitions and keep the rest at one minute – so monitoring pace is very important. Start at your 5 km race pace and work down from there. Aim to finish your last 400 m at least five seconds faster than your first. The total volume of work is 4,800 m, so averaging under 5 km race pace should be possible.
With a 3 km warmup and 3 km cooldown, this workout gets you to 11 km of running. If you’re looking to do this effort on a brick workout day, you can swap the running cool down for an easy ride. With that said, you want this workout to be a quality effort, so make it the main focus of your day.
20 x 400 m with jog recovery
This is a long-haul workout that makes for a big mileage session, however, the jog recovery breaks up the intervals nicely. The intervals alone will add up to 8 km of work, excluding the 100 m jog in between. Run this workout at roughly 10 km race pace if you want it to be a harder day, or a little slower if you’re looking for a tempo effort. Keep the 100 m jog nice and easy, but try to always be moving. By keeping the workout continuous (even when you’re uncomfortable) your body is learning to run on tired legs. With a warmup and cooldown, this will be 14 km of volume.
20 by one minute hard, one minute easy
If you don’t have access to a track or a GPS watch, you can simulate the 400 m effort by doing a 40-minute run, alternating between an easy minute and a difficult minute. Try and keep the efforts consistent, meaning the pace you set out at, should roughly be the pace you finish at (or a little faster). If you don’t have a GPS watch, you can determine pace consistency by using markers on a loop, like a bench or phone poll. If you do have a GPS watch, your hard minutes should be around 10 km race pace and your easy minutes at marathon pace. This speed play helps the time go quickly and teaches your body to comfortably switch gears midway through a run. With a warmup and cooldown, this workout (depending on pace) will hit around 15 km of total volume.
Madeleine Kelly won the 800m at the 2019 Canadian Track and Field Championships. A regular contributor to Canadian Running magazine, She lives and trains in Hamilton, Ont.