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400m Coaching Information - Synopsis by Brian Whittle

Athletics is really a collection of sports under an umbrella called Track and Field. Most of them I have no idea what they are for. I mean throwing various odd shaped things, jumping over things – even carrying a pole, running round and round a track until you are dizzy and then there are the poseurs of the sport - the short sprinters who’s whole being is about looking good in lycra! However, don’t ask them to do anything approaching a training session that might hurt!

What is left you may ask? The 400m runners! Proper athletes; adventurous, handsome, hero athletes! Athletes that require the speed of a 200m runner but with the speed endurance of an 800m runner – in other words – a proper athlete!

These days most 400m runners are of the type 200m/400m rather than 400m/800m. This tells you that speed is of the essence! It is vitally important that if an athlete has aspirations to be a world class 400m runner they work on their speed (especially at a young age). Look back at recent global championships at the winners of the 400m. The men can all run close to or even below 20 seconds for 200m; the women can all break 23 seconds for 200m. This is serious speed – and there is no substitute for it. It doesn’t matter what event an athlete does, speed is the ultimate limiting factor.

The effective 400m runner has to be able to get to top speed very quickly out of the blocks. They should then have the capability to cruise at very close to top speed through 200m with the minimum of effort before kicking at the appropriate time. The home straight is negotiated in increasing bucket loads of lactic acid – keeping a good tempo and technique.

Tactically, if you get the first 200m wrong there is no hiding place. Too fast and you will come down the home straight a week on Tuesday! Too slow and you will never be in the race. Pace judgment is a key element of the 400m discipline. No race has ever been won in the first 200m – but many have been lost!

Therefore, given what has been said above what kind of preparation should developing athletes adopt if they have aspirations for 400m? Speed and conditioning is the way forward for the young athlete. If you get these two elements right at a young age the strength and speed endurance will follow as you develop. Make sure you have very good core strength to be able to maintain form as your body fills with lactic.

Always though: SPEED then SPEED then some more SPEED!

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