If there’s one thing all runners know, it’s that the 400 m has one of the most challenging training regimes ever.
Preparation is rigorous and intense, but does it deter us? No.
The 400 m is one of the greatest foot races on earth. If you’re prepared to put in the work, running the 400 m is an achievable goal for any runner. Let’s not sugarcoat it, though.
When we say it’s hard work, we mean it. You’ll sweat, ache, curse, and you might even want to give up.
However, the key to making the 400 m achievable is strategy.
To make training for the 400 m as simple as possible, we’ve compiled this handy guide filled with tips and tricks to up your game and throw you over the finish line in no time.
Let’s get started.
Who Can Run the 400 m?
If you’re quick on your feet and have a relaxed running technique, odds are, you’ll do great at the 400 m. You’ll also need to be resilient and motivated.
Training for the 400 m will involve strength training and plenty of workouts.
For some runners, training takes longer. You’re not expected to run the 400 m overnight.
However, even if you’re new to the running scene, you can start exploring the methods you’ll need to train and improve your speed and endurance now.
For example, if you can run the 200 m, you can easily work your way up to the 400 m.
Time and patience go a long way.
400m: The Techniques You’ll Need
Ready to learn what it takes to run the 400 m?
Let’s take a look at the most critical areas you’ll need to work on.
To smash your first 400 m, you’ll need to work on your starting form.
There are plenty of ways to start a race, but at the 400 m, your best bet is to get a good start off the blocks. Starting blocks are used to push out with force and accelerate quicker.
When you’ve pushed yourself off the blocks, you enter what’s called the drive phase. As soon as you’re off the blocks, run with your head down for 50 meters.
You should find yourself in a ‘bent over’ position. This allows you to reach your top speed.
Once you’ve completed the drive phase, you’ll enter the transition phase for another 50 meters. You’ll now transition from running full speed into a steady, fast pace with the same running stride.
Remember not to change paces suddenly. This can increase your risk of injury. After the drive phase, you’ll enter what’s called the coasting phase for 100 meters.
During this phase, you’ll be expected to use less motion in your arms and let your legs do the work. This will prevent you from burning out quickly.
Once you’ve made it to the drive phase, it’s time for the ultimate push – the acceleration phase. At this point, the race will require more mental than physical strength to push through the last 200 meters.
While accelerating through the ‘curve’, your arms should become more active during the run. You can use this motion to help you to accelerate faster and finish the race with a boost.
Aside from a good running technique, you’ll also need to focus on building your lactic tolerance before the race.
Lactic tolerance training makes your body more efficient at transporting oxygen to your blood and reprocessing waste products of exercise.
To train your lactic tolerance, you’ll need to increase your lactic threshold. Interval running is an excellent way to do this.
With interval training, you’ll need to repeatedly run the same distance at top speed and surpass your lactate threshold, then take a break between runs.
By improving your lactate threshold or tolerance, you’ll be able to run at a faster pace without producing more lactic acid than your body can handle.
You’ll be able to run faster with less effort – precisely what you need to push through that 400 m race.
You need to be the fastest to be first over the finish line.
To run the 400 m, you may need to increase your running speed. You can do this gradually, and the pace you work at will depend on your current fitness level.
Here are a few tips for increasing your running speed:
- Increase Your Weekly Mileage: Gradually increase your weekly mileage. It’s best to increase your distance by half a mile a week. If you’re finding this too easy, go up to a mile. We also recommend trying the 10% rule: for example, if you’re already running 20 miles (ca. 32 km) a week, add on no more than two a week. This won’t be for everyone, though, so listen to your body!
- Separate Speed Workouts: Throw in some separate speed workouts to start improving your pace. Need some inspiration? Check out our suggestions below.
Find yourself a flat road, and start accelerating for eight to twelve seconds. When you’re near top speed, begin to decelerate to a jog. Repeat this up to six times and take a minute to recover between each rep.
When you do a stride workout, focus on your form. Prioritize lifting your toes and knees up more than you would. We recommend starting with around four strides three times a week. Once you’re comfortable, you can gradually increase the number of sessions.
Hill repeats are brutal. There’s no nice way to say it. However, they’re one of the best ways to get you faster and stronger, all while improving your form.
We recommend starting off with short sets between twenty and sixty seconds long, depending on your fitness level. Always keep your hill runs to under a minute long, and don’t focus on sprinting.
Instead, perform each rep with a light jog. This way, you’ll be able to handle more and reap the benefits.
Hill running naturally improves form. You’re naturally encouraged to lift your knees, drive your arms, get on your forefoot and push forward. This is a great technique to take forward into the 400 m.
With a combination of speed workouts, it’s possible to increase your pace dramatically.
Can You Outrun a Bear?
Probably not. Even Usain Bolt can’t do that.
However, you can improve just enough to see a noticeable difference on the track and run faster for longer without feeling so tired.
The Bottom Line
No, running the 400 m isn’t easy.
It’s one of the hardest races a runner can do. However, with hard work, varied training, and a little dedication, you’ll be hitting the track in no time.