Workout of the Day
4 x 400m
Splits: 55.4 / 54.9 / 55.3 / 54.0
Recovery: 4' - 5' rest
Anthony Coleman, Mark Fernando + Drevan Anderson-Kappa — April 8th, 2013
Context & Details
There are workouts where the sole point is to come face to face with your inadequacy. To run head first into the wall, for the purpose of seeing if there is anything left when you dig deep. For half of this group, they reached into their utter reserves and found something. For the others, they found their limit on that day.
For this workout, I implemented a slight variation on a classic 800m specific session, 4x400 at race pace. On reps #1 and 3, the instructions were to come through the first 200m controlled (i.e. 29 seconds) and then change gears. This subtle shift turns the workout from one of tolerance and survival to one where you have an active role. During the third rep, when you are embracing mounting fatigue, yet still have one more rep left, each athlete has to find a way to change speeds. This shift makes the last rep a very interesting one.
On this particular workout, the first two reps served as a prelude. You could see the athletes trying to execute the paces as smoothly as possible. The gear change on rep one was gradual and controlled. The athletes were measuring themselves and holding just enough in reserve. The 2nd rep was a reprieve, a steady effort throughout that took little thinking. The third rep was where the magic happened. Everyone hit the split, but some had to dive deep into the well.
You could see the realization during the rest period that they didn't have much left in the tank. The pacing, slow jogging, and smacking of the legs before rep 4 told you everything you needed to know as a coach. They were trying to will their legs to find anything to get them through the last repeat.
The final repeat came and the first 200m was business as usual, with all of the guys in a row running fast. Once they crossed the half-way mark, the cracks began to show. The strongest of the three powered through it, while another moved towards exaggerated arm-swing to try and pull himself through the final stretch. With 100 meters to go, one of them faced their limits, slowing with every step, and becoming a discombobulated mess.
Workouts like these are dangerous to do too often, but they supply so much information. You get to see the breaking point of each athlete, and how that is manifested in each individual's stride. Do they lean back? Swing their arms wildly? Lose all turnover?
When we are at our most vulnerable is often where we get the greatest insight into where and how we need to improve.