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Table 2 Specific training methods for middle-distance running

From: Crossing the Golden Training Divide: The Science and Practice of Training World-Class 800- and 1500-m Runners


Training method


Continuous running

Warm up/recovery run/cool down

Low-intensive running (typically 3–5 km·h−1 slower than marathon pace, i.e., 4:00–4:45 and 4:30–5:15 min·km−1 for men and women, however, the last part of the warm-up may approach marathon pace or slightly above), predominantly performed on soft surface (grass, woodland, forest paths, etc.). Typical duration is 10–30 min

Long run

Low-intensive steady-state running (marathon pace or 1–2 km·h−1 slower, i.e., 3:30–4:00 and 4:00–4:30 min·km−1 for men and women) performed on forgiving surfaces such as forest trails where possible. Typical duration is 60–90 min, but 2-h runs are also performed during the preparation period

Anaerobic threshold run

A sustained run at moderate intensity/half-marathon pace (i.e., 2:55–3:15 and 3:10–3:30 min·km−1 for world-class male and female middle-distance runners). Typical duration 15–40 min. The session should not be extremely fatiguing


An unstructured long-distance run in various terrains over 30–60 min. where periods of fast running are intermixed with periods of slower running. The pacing variations are determined by the athlete’s feelings and rhythms and terrain

Progressive long runs

A commonly used training form used by African runners. The first part of the session is identical to an easy long run. After about half the distance, the pace gradually quickens. In the final portion, the pace increases to the anaerobic threshold (half-marathon pace) or slightly past it. Athletes are advised to slow down when the pace becomes too strenuous

Interval training

Anaerobic threshold intervals

Intervals of 3–10 min. duration at an intensity around anaerobic threshold (half-marathon pace) or slightly faster. Typical sessions: 8–12 × 800–1000-m with 1 min. recovery between intervals, 4–8 × 1500–2000 m with 1–2 min. recovery between intervals, or 2–4 × 10-min. with 2–3 min. recovery between intervals. As a rule of thumb, the recovery periods are ~ 1 min. of easy jogging per 5 min of running. Recommended total time for elite runners is 25–40 min. Such intervals are advantageous because they allow the athlete to accumulate more total time than during a continuous anaerobic threshold run

VO2max intervals

Intervals of 2–4 min. duration at 3–10 K pace, with 2–3 min. recovery periods between intervals. Typical sessions: 4–7 × 800–1000 m or 2 × (6 × 400 m) with 30–60 s and 2–3 min. recovery between intervals and sets, respectively. Recommended total time for elite runners is ~ 15–20 min

Lactate tolerance training

Intervals typically ranging from 200 to 600 m with 800–1500 m race pace and 1–3 min. recoveries. Typical sessions: 10–16 × 200 m with 1 min. recovery between intervals, or 3 x (4 × 400 m) with 60–90 s and 3–5 min. recoveries between intervals and sets, respectively. Total accumulated distance ranges from 1500 to 5000 m in elite athletes

Lactate production training

Intervals typically ranging from 150 to 600 m at 200–600 m race pace and full recoveries. Typical sessions: 5–7 × 300 m with 3–5 min. recoveries, 3–5 × 400 m with 7–15 min. recoveries, or 600–500–400–300–200 m with 6–15 min. recoveries. Total accumulated distance ranges from 800 to 2500 m in elite athletes


Hill repeats

The main intention is overloading horizontal propulsive muscle groups while reducing ballistic loading. Typical incline is 5–10%, and duration vary from ~ 15 s to ~ 4 min. depending on intensity, goal (aerobic intervals, lactate production or tolerance training) and time of season. Typical sessions: 10–15 × 100 m with 60–90 s recoveries, or 6–8 × 800–1000 m with easy jog back recoveries. Hill repeats are mainly performed during the preparation period

Sprints or time trials

Time trials

“All-out” efforts or trials aiming at achieving a target time. Distances are normally 50–80% of the athlete’s normal racing distance. Typically performed prior to (e.g., 10 days) an important race at the early part of the season


5–15 s runs with near-maximal to maximal effort and full recoveries. These can also be performed as strides, progressive runs or flying sprints, where the rate of acceleration is reduced to allow more total distance at higher velocities. The main aim of the session is to develop or maintain maximal sprinting speed without producing high levels of lactate