The 400-meter run is an awkward distance in track and field. It's too long to be an all-out sprint, but it's much too short to be a distance race. It sits right between being a purely aerobic or purely anaerobic race. That means you need a blend of training to excel.
Aerobic training means that it's oxygen-dependent. Your body is relying on oxygen to power you through. Aerobic training is less intense than anaerobic exercise but lasts longer. The one-mile race is a perfect example of an aerobic event. You don't sprint all-out, you pace yourself and run below your max speed.
All 200- to 400-meter runs are a blend of aerobic and anaerobic energy. When you run a 400-meter sprint in a competition you put all of your energy into it. However, in practice, you don't need to go 100 percent every time.
Use tempo runs, which are a less-intense version of a sprint, to work on running form and endurance. When you do a tempo run, aim for about 80 percent effort. To figure out what that should feel like, take your fastest 400-meter time and add 20 percent to that time. If you run the 400-meter competitively in 60 seconds, your tempo runs should take around one minute and 12 seconds.
Keep the number of runs in your workout low, between six and eight. Rest two to three minutes between each. With tempo runs, you're building up your speed endurance for the 400-meter. Since the intensity and rest time drops, you're out of pure anaerobic territory and moving towards aerobic.
Long Distance Runs
Distance runs help 400-meter runners build up their aerobic endurance. These are long-distance runs with little to no rest but they're done at a relatively slow pace. Aim for a 15-minute run at a steady pace or 30 minutes of run/walk training where you run 100 meters and jog 100 meters continuously.
This style of low-intensity but long duration training is perfect for improving your aerobic energy system. Without taking any rest you have to lower the speed at which you run, making the exercise much less intense.
These aerobic exercises will help you sustain your speed during the 400-meter run and balance our the purely anaerobic sprinting training that you'll also use.
Anaerobic training means that it's not oxygen-dependent. When you're doing something anaerobic your muscles are relying on energy from your blood sugar and substances stored in your muscle like glycogen and creatine to get explosive power. The only drawback to anaerobic energy is that it doesn't last long.
Speed Endurance Training
When you run the 400 meter you're running almost at your maximum speed. During training, you need to increase your top running speed and improve your endurance so that you can maintain that top speed for longer.
This style of training is called speed endurance. The focus is on maintaining your speed throughout the race and delaying the amount of time it takes before you hit a wall and start to slow down. It can also be called anaerobic endurance, because you're building up your anaerobic system so that it lasts longer.
To increase your speed endurance, run either 100 meter or 200 meter sprints, where you build up to your top speed and maintain it as long as possible. Do four to six of the sprints in a row, resting two or three minutes between each.
Anaerobic training for the 400 meter is very sprint-heavy. Some people run sprints for as little as 30 meters. This will help build up your acceleration speed in particular, which helps you reach your top speed faster.
Since 30 meters is a short distance you can run a lot of those sprints during practice. You can do six sets of 30-second sprints. Rest five to 10 minutes between each sprint before you go again. The long rest times help you completely recover your energy so that you can run each sprint at your top speed.
Your explosive anaerobic runs can be as long as 150 meters. These are all done with the same five to 10 minutes of rest in between each run to build your energy back up.