Middle-Distance Running for Beginners
Although middle-distance running can be from 800 anywhere up to 3000 metres, it is generally accepted that true middle-distance running events are from 800 to 1500 metres.
The armoury of a middle-distance runner isn’t as simple as you might expect – put it this way, if it was a knife, it would need to be a Swiss army knife rather than a big old blade from John Rambo. Variation is key.
A good middle runner needs to have such attributes as strength, speed, efficiency, suppleness, coordination, aerobic capacity, brainpower and a determination beyond dogged. They need to be killers like Rambo.
Breaking Down a Runner’s Attributes
- Aerobic capacity
All sprinting requires strength in numerous ways. Core strength, leg and arm strength and mental strength, which we shall leave discuss later on. It is by working out at the gym that you can increase your strength and power. Essentially you need to increase your power, which is energy/time or the rate of work.
Sprinting requires a lot of dynamic movement, where your fast-twitch fibers are firing. You can increase muscle strength and size by working out at the gym, but ask your training coach to do a programme specifically for sprinting. It’s common sense that if your muscles are getting bigger then you are getting stronger, but look at the difference between power lifters and bodybuilders. Bodybuilders are bigger, but not as strong as power lifters. The body responds differently to various workout regimes and exercise drills.
As a sprinter, you aren’t necessarily looking for muscle mass, because muscles are heavy and use a lot of oxygen. Your muscles will naturally get bigger, but you are ideally looking for more powerful muscles. That means that as well as getting stronger, they are capable of operating more quickly and getting through the workload quicker. Moving your heavy body from one end of the track to the other is the workload that we are talking about here. Sprinters need the explosiveness of a power lifter.
When we are talking about speed in relation to sprinting, it is the overall judge of how much you are improving. The clock is the master of any runner, but for a sprinter, it’s those small increments that are actually far bigger than what they seem. A few seconds might not be significant to a long-distance runner, but for a sprinter it could be the difference between making it big or being a complete nobody. Not that it should matter to you at this stage, because we are merely laying the foundations so you can get to know the sprint game and most of all be able to enjoy your running/sprinting.
Breaking speed down, though, there will be different sections of the race that you can analyse. You might be brilliant starting off, but your speed might fade later in the race due to your stamina or lack of rather. What we’re saying is that each element of a runners vocabulary is merely an amalgamation of other elements. Speed isn’t just full of speed. It’s the jigsaw of many smaller items that you can work on in order to get faster.
Having the correct technique and efficiency will make a drastic improvement to a newbie sprinter. If you wish to take your sprint game seriously, then perhaps it might be wise to spend money on a few private training lessons where you can learn from an expert what the correct form is. You could possibly make more gains from something like this than months of training listening to your gym buddy. Ergonomics
Have a look at this YouTube video to give you an idea of the proper form for sprinting.
Here is another one, pardon the swearing – YouTube video. Someone commented that they learned more from this video in 5 minutes than they did in 3 years listening to their coach.
Runners tend to use the gait/form/style that they are most familiar with. While this is totally understandable, there is a very big flaw in this and it’s easy to explain, if not as easy to fix.
Sprinters are trained to utilize their power and they maximize this to increase their speed.
Runners on the other hand are trained to save energy and run in power-saving style, which is the opposite to sprinters.
What goes wrong is when sprinters slow down, instead of using the power-saving style, they still use their power-hungry style that they’ve been trained to do. On the opposite side of the coin, runners who might have to do a little burst of sprinting need to consider that they also need to adapt the correct technique, even if it’s only for a few seconds.
Essentially, what we are getting at is that sprinters and runners need to learn the whole craft and utilize the correct style and bio-mechanic efficiency that goes with the pace they are running at. This is where training comes in, because when we are too tired to think, if we have done plenty of training, our mind will still know to run correctly on autopilot. The pathways in our brain will be honed like rabbit runs in the long grass and our neurons know where to fire without us actually planning a route or method.
Running economy can also be affected by having stiff muscles and tendons. If you’re not fully relaxed, warmed up and stretched out, you will not only be at risk of wasting energy, but also more likely to have an accident. Most injuries occur at the beginning of an event when people are still loosening up and also later on when people are tired.
Do your correct warming up and cooling down routine. If you are someone who does a lot of training, almost every day for example, then make sure that you get your rest. Recuperation is one of the cornerstones of a successful running schedule. Whether you are an Olympic level athlete or Joe Bloggs from round the way, you are still a human being and resting properly is vital to your health and overall enjoyment. Running isn’t fun when you are in pain or watching from the sidelines.
Listen to your body and don’t go ahead with something as intense as sprinting unless you are 100% confident that your body won’t break down. It’s not like leisurely running where an injury might creep up progressively. With sprinting it’s going to go from zero to injury in a split second. You won’t get another chance to change your mind once you’re sat wrapped up in bandages.
Balance, coordination, agility, posture and confidence all depend on your level of fitness. If you are a trained runner and have been running on and off for years you will pick it up quicker than someone who has never run at all. It’s the same as a footballer or boxer who hasn’t played for a long time, yet they still have a natural in-built instinct to ping a ball about or throw punches like they’re a genius.
Our brains are like sponges and absorb patterns, especially movement patterns. It’s not so long ago in evolutionary terms that we swung through the trees with the other apes and monkeys. Just imagine how much natural agility we needed back in those days. Well we’ve swapped most of that for brain power – both a good and a bad thing.
If you’re coming back into training after a long lay off, don’t push yourself too hard. Take your time to get your feel back and slowly build up to where you are comfortable again. Sprinting is a lot more dependent on coordination than a slower form of running. Everything is over so quickly in a short sprint, but for middle-distance running and racing you are going to rely on your coordination heavily, especially at the later end of the race when tiredness kicks in.
It’s when exhaustion and tiredness start to wear you down that hard work on the training ground helps out. This is where your mind might be flickering somewhat, but those days going over your sprint method slowly is where your neurons are laying down the blueprint in your brain that are fired again and again.
Remember when David Beckham used to take them amazing free kicks that the world went crazy over? Well as much as that is down to practice, it is basically the same neurons firing in the same order in his brain. The same effect is what will give you good balance and coordination when you become tired. The fitter you are the longer you will be able to hold onto your level of balance.
Having the best numbers in one category isn’t going to do you any good at all if you are lacking in others. Hence, try and keep an overall level of strength, speed, power and agility that suit one another. Just like a bodybuilder needs well-matched muscle size, you also need to balance each section of your sprinting strategy from your body to your workouts, diet and the rest.
Being mentally agile is as important as agility on the track.
All sports are hard these days. Nothing is easy because the world has access to the Internet. Knowledge is an open secret. People all over the world train like slaves to their craft, which makes the life of a sportsman all the more rewarding as well as increasingly harder and more competitive if that was even possible?
What makes it harder still is when your own sport is throwing spanners in the works.
What do we mean by this? Well if you’re running long distance it’s hard, but you often just have to concentrate on running a lot. Whereas if you’re doing the 100 metres sprint you don’t have to do any cross-country running, all you are bothered about is those short bursts.
The problem for the middle man is that you’re trying to optimize often conflicting events. Just look at the muscular physique of a sprinter like Usain Bolt compared to the slimline silhouette of a distance man like Mo Farah. There’s no comparison – they’re at the opposite ends of the human spectrum.
Well it’s this conundrum that a middle-distance runner has to solve. They have to be able to run long enough to have endurance like Mo Farah yet still have the power of Usain Bolt. It’s a hard task.
You can increase your endurance engine by putting in plenty of varied running sessions. Speak to your coach and get a detailed running plan that is especially for sprinting. It’s important that you don’t do too much and burn yourself out.
The types of run suitable for middle-distance runners are:
- Tempo runs.
- Long-slow distance runs.
- Long-distance runs.
- Trail running.
See our guide for all the different types of running.
The key to being successful isn’t all about volume. It’s about being happy and by doing a workout you enjoy, while still suffering enough to make an improvement, is what counts. You will be far more likely to stick at something you enjoy than by forcing yourself to do a workout that you hate. That goes for any sport and not just running.
We all know that being brainy is a good thing, but using your brain in the hustle and bustle of a race is important. You need to get your tactics right otherwise you might blow the race. It would be a shame if you were fit enough physically and also mentally strong, but blew your dream all because you attempted to break away too early or too late.
A lot of top athletes now, such as boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko, use brain training techniques where they try and work things out when they are exhausted after a regular training session. They also do complicated puzzles during a workout.
The idea being that your brain gets used to problem solving during stressful situations or environments. Then when you are in a competitive race or match you will be able to pull off moves that your competitor finds too hard and they end up failing while you are the winner.
It’s common knowledge that when you are dehydrated you aren’t able to solve problems as quickly as you would be when you are operating at your normal level.
As well as testing your brain power, this one can be linked into your coordination training. When competing at the top level, it is these small and otherwise seemingly insignificant training methods that are making a big impact on the world stage.
Regardless of whether you are merely training to lose weight or you wish to be a worldwide superstar, dogged determination is a vital ingredient of a winner. Nobody won anything without digging deep in order to overcome adversity.
A sprinter’s life is a hard one and pushing through that pain barrier is hard. It doesn’t sound like a lot when you are watching from the sidelines, but when you are in the moment, you can feel every split second when you are a boxer getting punched in the face or a sprinter watching your rival blow past you.
You need to plan ahead and push through the pain barrier in training so it becomes second nature. Then when you are in it for real, you will be confident and all the other bits of the jigsaw will come together easier.
When you are feeling insecure you will be less relaxed and can burn off more energy, even if you have great fitness levels, one piece of the jigsaw can affect another piece and before you know it the game is lost.
Nobody expects you to be tougher than Rocky Balboa, but if you keep on working and chipping away at your goals you will overcome whatever obstacle comes your way.
Five More Runner’s Reads
- Best Running Apps
- Long-Distance Running
- Running Technology Wearables
- High-Visibility Running Apparel
- Buying Running Shoes
Have You Done any Middle-Distance Running Lately?
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Until next time, stay fit and injury free and don’t forget to keep reading How to Run Faster and Longer .Com.