There’s no shortage when it comes to choosing a workout that promises to improve running ability. Want to run faster than before? There’s a sea of workouts that can have you doing just that. Wicked fast 400s; 10 x 800m; or mile repeats will test both your fitness and your mental resolve and most certainly have a time and place in training.
But why do we split these distances out instead of running them all in one chunk? The mile breakdown is a well-known and respected challenge for runners. It’s also a less popular example of a “classic” track workout that’s also one of the most gruelling. Although it seems simple enough, if run right, it’s undoubtedly a killer workout.
The workout: 1,600m – 1,200m – 800m – 400m/400m + 2 x 200m/200m
To break this down for your understanding, that is run four, three, two and then one hard lap of a track with one easy lap in between. For the second part, add two 200m repeats with 200m in between. Seems simple, right?
Here’s the catch: the pace you run each interval at is supposed to get progressively faster as you go. As a rough guide, the 1,600m should be run at approximately 10K race pace, the 1,200m at 5K pace, the 800m at 3K pace and the 400m at one mile/1,500m pace. And finally, the two 200m repeats should be run “all-out,” meaning give it whatever you have left.
So what does all this effort do in the long run? This workout primarily aims to improve VO2 max (aerobic capacity) and anaerobic running efficiency and is an excellent choice for speed training. It also helps develop a more refined knowledge and appreciation for running at different paces and efforts. You’ll definitely want to avoid going out too hard and running the first intervals too fast or your later intervals will suffer and you’ll miss out on the desired effect.
As with any workout, be sure to start with a warm up and finish with a cool down of easy running to prepare the body for and hasten recovery from the hard effort. Also consider adding a few strides and dynamic running drills just before you run the intervals.