In track and field, the 800-meter run is a popular but highly demanding footrace. It requires a combination of speed and endurance. It is neither a sprint nor a long-distance event, but to perform well in the 800, you have to have the speed of a sprinter and the endurance of a long-distance runner, and you need to train accordingly.
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The 800-meter race equals approximately a half-mile. Running this kind of race requires sustained speed, so training must incorporate drills and practices that emphasize strong acceleration and leg speed, also known as "turnover." If you are naturally blessed with fast-twitch muscle fibers, you probably already enjoy running short, fast distances and can probably excel at the 800. If your genes favor slow-twitch muscle fibers, you can still train to become a better sprinter.
Short-term, high-intensity activity is called anaerobic exercise. You are performing so intensely that you become breathless quickly, and most sprint distances, from 100 meters to 1,600 meters, will leave you gasping for oxygen. Therefore, you have to train not only your legs but also your lungs' ability to exchange gases from the circulating blood and feed more oxygen to your muscles.
The best training plans include occasional long runs interspersed with some middle-distance running, as well as hard sprinting that mimics race conditions, according to Coaches Education and CoachR.org. A sample training regimen follows: Monday, four miles at an easy pace -- you can comfortably talk while running; Tuesday, three miles fast -- it should be very difficult to talk during this run; Wednesday, run 800 meters hard then walk for three minutes, and repeat this six times; Thursday, long easy run of five to seven miles; Friday, three miles, running at different speeds for a minute or two at a time.
The sprinting sessions are the most important. During these, you have to work on biomechanics, posture and leg turnover because if your biomechanics are bad, you're wasting energy and effort and your turnover will be slow. When running, your foot should land directly underneath the body, not in front, because if your feet land in front of your body, you're creating a braking action. Think about hitting the ground with your forefoot or midfoot and kick behind you hard so that you maintain full forward momentum. The faster you train your legs to complete this stride, the faster you'll go.
Exercises that support high performance in the 800 include plyometrics. Plyometics are moves that create explosive power, such as jumps, squats, one-legged hopping, and even pull-ups and push-ups. The most effective plyometrics for 800-meter runners include jumping with both legs from the ground to a bench about knee height; skipping with huge, exaggerated steps and forceful swings of the arms; and one-legged squats. These moves not only train the muscles to contract powerfully but also force the body to maintain balance, which requires even the tiniest muscles in the legs and feet to contribute to the power.
Do not ignore your upper body when you train for the 800 because arm swing helps generate power. However, it is important to keep your arms by your sides; that is, don't swing them in front of your chest because this throws your torso and hips off balance and also leads to energy loss.