Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Workout Wednesday 400/400 Alternations

  I have talked on here about a few types of alternations.  If it isn't clear yet they are my favorite type of workout by far.  They are the best of both world option that takes the best bits of tempo runs and intervals and meld them into a one amazing session.  Perhaps more importantly though is you learn to recover at a fast pace.  I don't know why but recovering at a quick pace is the one thing I have found that leads to the biggest improvements in fitness.

  This specific workout is a great introduction to alternations.  It is simple.  It is adaptable and it is hugely effective. It can be done off the track but I would say it is easiest to complete it on the track. Like alterations sessions it is a continuous run.  The main measure of the session is how fast your average pace is.

  The how..  Run 400m at a faster interval pace.  How fast can vary and we'll get to that. Then run 400m at a slightly slower pace.  Keep this up until you can't go no more.  Focus on two things.  First on relaxing while running the fast rep.  If you work to hard on the interval your day will be over very quickly.  Next focus on being as smooth and relaxed as possible on your recovery 400m while still hitting your pace.  Work too hard on the rest and again your day will be over very quickly.

  The distance.  Well in short as far as you can go.  Now how far you try to go should depend on your goal race.  If you are trying to get ready for a 5k you should only be doing 1 to 2 miles of these, rest included.  Aiming for a 10k then only 3 to 4 miles of these. Half marathon 6 to 8 miles. Marathon 10 to 13 miles.  Each time you aim to average around your goal race pace.

  Now how much faster and slower than pace should your effort and recover be respectively. This depends on what kind of runner you are.  If you are the kind of runner who can really fly on intervals easily you should start with faster reps and slower rests.  You could have a range of 15 to 20 seconds.  So let us say you were planning on a goal race pace of 6:00 per mile, 90 seconds per 400m. Then you could do reps as fast as 80 seconds and recover at 1:40.  For runners with less basic speed  you should try to have about 10 seconds between your fast and slow reps.  I often refer to this session as 70/80. This is because I like to run my fast laps in 70 seconds and recoveries in 80 seconds.  The tight range really forces you to recover at a very quick pace and this will enable you to recover and salvage races where you go out to fast but more importantly it will enable you to stay in control at a quick pace well into a race putting you in a position to make a long killing drive to the finish.

  If you haven't tried this type of workout it is high time you did and this one is a great entry point because it isn't a mentally challenging as some of the other type of alterations..  If you have been doing them for a time then you should try this one in a few different varieties. You will love it!


danny said...

I am learning so much Nate. Thank you for sharing all this knowledge. Goal 5k pace is 5:20, so Saturday I am going to try alternations of 4:50 and 5:20, 0r 4:40 and 5:20. Never done this before but I find I am always very excited to try what your teaching. I Can't remember the last time I got very excited about a workout, or looked forward to so much pain.

Craig McMahon said...

Danny- you've got to read a little more carefully. You don't run the recoveries at race pace- that'd be much harder than a race!

If you're looking to run 5:20 pace in a race (80 seconds per 400) you'd do something more like 400s in 75 hard/85 "recovery" for 1-2mi. I would NOT run a mile in 4:40/mile in 5:20.

Craig McMahon said...

Frankly, running as much as 2mi in that kind of alternation is probably a little much for the 5k, unless you have a massive base of many years above 100mi/week, counting downtime and injuries.

danny said...

Thank you Craig, That's called ADD and it's embarrassing. I'll have to slow down and reread more. I am relatively new to running and all these alternation workouts are experiments as to what my body can and can't do. I have a history of my ambition asking more than my talent is capable of. I will try the 75/85 and thanks again.

nateruns@hotmail.com said...

Danny- Craig is right that 2 miles at 5k pace is probably going to be tough. If you can do a mile at 5k pace first time in this session you should be pretty happy. If you can do 1.5 miles you are probably pretty close to ready to run that pace evenly for the whole race. I'll do a post later on other alternations that work well for the 5k and that will let you do a bit more volume. If you google search alternations and steve madness there is a great article he did for running times on alternations.

danny said...

First of all, I want to thank you for caring enough to respond to me. It demonstrates what kind of person you are. I have Steve's book which is great. But I will google his alternations cause you advised so . I am doing these 75/85 400's tomorrow (shout out to Craig) and I will let you know how far I can get. 1.5 miles is do or die tomorrow. I got kids so I hope it's not the latter.

daniel said...

"Like alternations sessions it is a continuous run" Amen.

But like any workout, it is not the single workout that is an indication of fitness but the progression of workouts over time.

I love doing alternations on a regular basis; the fitness progress and overall badass feel as you get six or more weeks into them is unbeatable (When I get to the point where I can alternate 5000m worth of 200s near my personal best for 5000 I know I am getting fit).

Everyone seems to always look for the missing key to their training, which is probably a good thing. But I suspect the most important thing to focus on is Noakes' Last Law of Training: The holism of training.

Thank you.