I'm 16 weeks out from my first race of the year which will be the 200 meters. I've kicked around the idea of starting with an 800 meter but in the interest of staying dedicated to the 400 I'm going with the 200. Generally, training for the 800 won't help your 400 but training for the 200 will (it depends a little on where you're coming from in terms of race focus. A marathoner will run a faster 400 if they focus on the 800, but a 200 meter runner probably won't). For a sprinter, the requirements for a fast (sub 2:00 in my case) 800 will more than likely hurt your 400 speed. As with any race, the 400 is defined by energy "systems" or metabolism or fuel. More so than any other race however the sprints require a much higher degree of nervous system economy. Training at much slower paces and higher volume inhibits, and can actually hurt, central nervous system development as it applies to sprinting. If an endurance runner has a poor Vo2 (poor economy of movement) that's OK because other systems can make up for it. But with sprints if your economy is poor there aren't any other energy systems that can compensate to a degree that will make up for it. Also to consider is the duration of the event and what even a small deficiency of movement means. I spent the entire summer last year trying to take a HALF second off my 200, so small changes in economy have a significant impact.
Anyway, before I get way of track, I'm 16 weeks out and in what you might call a general preparation phase. The goal is to build "endurance", and remember I need endurance that carries me for less than 55 seconds (my first race is 200 meters BUT my ultimate goal is the 400), and speed. Speed in the truest sense is something that MUST be placed at the forefront of any sprinters program. Duh. For me I need more max velocity rather than acceleration. I'm relatively faster from 0-30 meters than I am 0-60 meters which means I have a poor top end. I am explosive and powerful but at top speed my economy isn't great. So in this phase my focus will be on continuing to build my strength and power, with weight room work and lots of jumping, and also to improve my 60-80 meter times. Something to consider, once you go beyond ~7"-8" then you are no longer doing true speed, you're now tipping over into the next energy system. A general idea as to what the various systems look like:
you use alactic metabolism. As the duration indicates this is your explosive or immediate movement. You produce/ burn ATP quickly and it runs out fast. You can also call this the ATP-CP system. CP stand for creatine phosphate. Of note, when you focus on this duration you go 100% only and your recovery intervals need to complete. 1:50 up to 1:100 ratio of work to rest. This is true "speed" work. Anything over 8" is not speed work. And I base that off the truest definition of maximal output. I understand that there is "speed" relative to your event.
After the initial couple of seconds of explosion you start producing lactate. In the 3"-10" range you can refer to it as power/ short lactic. Energy systems blend into one another so you're rarely in just one. The 400 meters, and to a lesser extent the 200, covers all of these (the ones I'm writing about today) which makes it tricky to train for. If you're weak in one area you won't run fast.
Very much lactate, or power/ long lactic. Edges into "speed endurance".
Lactate capacity or as I call it, my favorite. Very much speed endurance. This is by far the most painful type of training and also the most (overall) specific to the 400. Intervals are long and hard (95%-100% efforts) with relatively short recovery between reps. A workout example would be 200 meters HARD/ rest 1:00/ 200 meters best effort. Then you would rest ~8:00-12:00 between the next split 400. I read somewhere that blood lactate might only begin to plateau at ~10:00 post interval, so after that second 200 your lactate levels continue to climb for 10 minutes. Brutal. And awesome! It's also something that endurance athletes could learn a little bit from when doing threshold intervals. You can take more rest than is typically prescribed and when I coach my athletes I tend to write "rest as needed". If you do 5 X 1000 at threshold you can take 1:00 up to 5:00 rest. The more important data point is the speed of the 1000. If you take too little rest then the quality will diminish.
Then you go into energy systems based more off Vo2 max or the traditional "endurance" training. Duration ranges from 1 minute up to hours.
So, again, I'm 16 weeks out and I'm supposed to be focusing on more general preparation. Long tempo is a key workout but I'm going to take some liberties with this idea. I sort of, in my very limited scope of understanding physiology, disagree with the long tempo for sprinters. For an endurance athlete I feel that the long tempo could be the only workout you do. For a sprinter however I feel it's bordering on harmful to an athlete with a speed weakness. And this is specific to ME as an athlete. My endurance, the type you develop with efforts at 70-75%, is far from my weakness. I've been an endurance athlete for 35 years. I feel that the long tempo is good for an athlete moving up from the 100 to the 400, or for an athlete moving up from the 400 to the 800. But for a guy moving from 100 MILES down to the 200 meters, I don't like it. I feel I'd be much better if instead of a long tempo I'd do speed endurance or speed or max velocity, or a jump workout with plyo which is more my limiter.
So no long tempo. Another factor is that I've basically been in a general prep phase for the past 5 months. So how much more do I need? I feel, and have proven, that my ultimate genetic gift is durability. I'm not naturally fast or strong or an endurance monster... but I can train hard enough to make up for those short comings. Part of that durability comes from learning (too many times to count) where my limits are and also having a healthy paranoia for soft tissue injury. Over the decades I've pushed to my limits until I almost broke, then I rested just enough to avoid an injury. It's made me durable. I also have the bone density of James Howlett. So, I think I can handle a higher load than most which means I want to blend my general preparation phase with the next phase which can be called the "specific phase".
On that note, it seems that the term "specific training" gets a bad rap. When we communicate amongst ourselves we use terminology to convey our meaning. The word specific indicates training that requires efforts or movements similar to their event. You can assume that a "specific" workout for a sprinter isn't a two hour long run at MAF and that a specific workout for an Ironman isn't 20 meter block starts. I also think the word "specific" indicates something that directly tranfers to your race performance. Loaded back squats are not specific to running. There is a very general or ancillary benefit which can support specific training. But it is not specific and it doesn't directly transfer. If you improve your back squat by 10% that doesn't mean you are now faster. You've gained strength so completely NON-specific to the neural requirements of sprinting that it may make you slower. And if you deep squat you may have compromised the stiffness qualities of your quad tendon which will absolutely make you slower. Enough.
So I'm going to start to bring in specific training to my general preparation. This means rather than doing long tempo I'm going to be doing speed endurance. But, there is yet another thing here. Extensive tempo can also be used as a recovery or easy day. This is something that's tough to wrap my mind around. I have it on my schedule as an option but I'm sure that 99% of the time if I need a recovery day I'll either rest completely or bike (not specific to sprinting in any way.)
So here's my basic week that I'll be using for the next 4 weeks. The way I tend to coach myself is I have a set number of workouts within a week and I do them as I feel. I take different options depending on how I feel. With sprinting and the need to go near max every time there are plenty of unplanned days off. My schedule is just a loose template or guide to each week. There also is no need to change this schedule for 4 weeks. It'll take longer than that just to realize any significant compensation. On any given day I'll shorten or lengthen intervals (within the ranges of specific duration goals) depending on how I feel playing it more by ear. My tendency is to go harder and do more so I don't feel that keeping it fluid hurts me. It's entirely about listening to my body.
And on a final note, I didn't put in my strength days. I'll do those before or after the short hill sessions.