100m "aerobic"?

In the light of the success of the “Lactate Threshold” thread,and of the academic tone of some discussions lately,you may want to take a look:


Quite a wealth of information there … to discuss here!

The main point is that you must keep below a certain rate to stay aerobic. This may vary between individuals and between circumstances/load for the same individual. That’s why the low intensity threshold is set at a conservative 75% of best time, and, at that, as a maximum rate, not a set goal.
I understand you’ve seen some scientific results and/or confirmable observations to back up the concept of low intensity work’s favourable effect on high intensity work. This is important to pass on as this low int work is certainly not universally accepted.

Please bear with me as I don’t have a PhD in Exercise Physiology…

“Little data exist that specifically and accurately evaluate energy system contributions…………Considerable information can be found that attempts to do so, but this has generally been based on data in the 1970’s that inappropriately used oxygen debt to quantify anaerobic energy release.”

“The crossover to predominately aerobic energy system supply occurred between ----15 and 30 seconds---- for the 400, 800, and 1500 meter events.”

“These results suggest that the relative contribution of the aerobic energy system during track running events is considerable and greater than traditionally thought.”

Energy System Contribution During 200 To 1500 Meter Running In Highly Trained Athletes

Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise………Volume 33 #1…….January 2001………page 157

So I assume the new research shows that we use oxygen as a source of fuel earlier than previously suggested.

What was the problem with using Oxygen dept? How do they measure this now?

So training the aerobic capcity of a 200m runner via Tempo is a very good idea and should lead to increased performance because we actually use more of the aerobic energy pathway when running 200m than previouly thought.

How do we prove the importance of pure aerobic work for the 200/400m runner?

Where does this leave mid intensity work like that done by MJ? I guess there is a slightly more aeorbic basis to his training but at the times he was running it would be only a very short period for the 200m.


That’s a reasonable question. Do we need to worry about this or just use the percentage of max as a guide and forget about the energy system responsible? What happens when you cross over? How much over is ok? Etc Etc

Low intensity training works indirectly, in my opinion, as a means to improve the performance quality within the key high intensity componants, such as Special Endurance.


You said that Marita Koch used to do 10x400m at 75% which should be aerobic in nature.

Did the east germans do any lactic tollerence work such as 3x300, 3x200, 3x100 off very short recoveries as well as faster runs or get all thier lactic tollerence work from something like 2x350 or 2x300 at 95-100% like you would recommend?

My thinking is that if the aerobic system is more important than is generally believed for a 400m event then that means that “heavy lactic” work (which is currently the vogue in the UK) would be less important.

I have been wondering about the levels of lactic tollerence work that need to be done recently having looked at studies on bicarb supplementation which seem to suggest it doesn’t really help that much for 400m but works better for 800m because the longer race time allows the body to actually make use of the buffereing effect (sorry for the really unscientific explanation - i need to review the literature to really put this in scientific terms).

Obvioulsy lactic work is very important to the 400m but I wonder how many people have tried to train good runners for the 400m without focusing on it directly (e.g. 80-90% runs) and seeing what happened… my guess is very few.

According to the scientists, the part of anaerobic and aerobic during each races is:
Distance: 100m - 200m - 400m - 800m
Anaerobic: 95% - 90% - 75% - 55%
Aerobic: 5% - 10% - 25% - 45%

Two remarks from this data from 1967:

    • a 45sec 400m runner doesn’t require the same energetic files ratio than an other 400m runner whose PB is 50sec.
  • a 400m runner who runs 45sec doesn’t require the same energetic files ratio when he is running at 95%, 90%, etc…
  • a 400m runner who runs 45sec doesn’t require the same energetic files ratio when his split times are 21 + 24 or 22.5 + 22.5.
  1. the anaerobic/aerobic ratio made led some coaches to think that a 100m sprinter only needs to practice aerobic files at 5% of the whole training, and 400m runners 25%, etc… Big mistake…

Since you are talking about East Germany, i translate some quotes from a Werner Schäfer article from 1989:
"[commenting graphics sowing that male and female, no matter the level, all have the same speed curve during the 400m race]. The speed decrease is the same for all the athletes groups and suppose a second 200m half 2.2sec-2.4sec slower than the first 200m half. Thus, the maximum speed reached during the first part of the race is decisive, since the speed decrease depends on it […] According to our findings, the maximum speed obtained during the competition is 90% of the individual maximum absolute speed […] Between the two 200m halves, there is a negative corelation: the faster the first 200m half, the slower the last 200m half. For the best international athletes, it is necessary to run the first half at a high speed, but it is only possible if their individual maximum absolute speed is so high that there is no opposite effect. Thus, it’s clear that with a training emphasing on 300-500m repetitions, it’s not possible to improve 400m competition results, since it avoids the important condition for the first 200m half […] apparently, the individidual maximal lactate concentration is a condition necessary, but it doesn’t produce any improvement in 400m competition result. For example, Marita Koch and an other athlete had the same blood lactate concentration (20.6 mmol/l) after a 49.02 and 58.30 competition respectively. The biggest difference between the two athletes is found in the individual maximum speed (flying 30m results as 2.90 and 3.53 respectively). "
Schäfer continues explaining how important is the aerobic work, giving the example of Thomas Schönlebe. He stresses the huge correlation between 400m competition result (44.33 for Schönlebe) aerobic capacity (4.9m/s for him), special resistance test 3 x 400m with 20min rest (in about 47-48sec from him) all together. In other word, the data from the large group of GDR 400m runners:

  • the better the 400 competition result, the higher the aerobic capacity (c = 0.74),
  • the better the 400 competition result, the better the special endurance test (c =0.73), and
  • the higher the aerobic capacity, the better the special endurance test (c = 0.79).

All this explains why Koch didn’t ran 500m or 600m for lactic capacity. Same for Grit Breuer whose aerobic tempo work didn’t went farther than 400m repetitions, but like Schönlebe she used continuous runs (up to 10km for him).

All this is great, but USSR who so far holds the 4 x 400m relay WR used other methods… GDR 400m runners had a 200/400 profile (from Monika Zehrt to Grit Breuer) while USSR had a 400/800 profile (from Mariya Pinigina to Olga Kotlyarova).

Thanks PJ.Very appealing. Do you have any details about USSR methods used to build the aerobic capacity and the special endurance for 400m sprinters?

Thanks PJ that was great!

While I don’t know how old your figures are quoted above they look similar to ones i have seen from the 80s and therefore, I assume the post on the other forum (the one being discussed) is implying that these were wrong and that infact the aerobic proportion is infact greater than 5% for the 100m. I may be wrong here.

I’d be interested in knowing what people (scientists) think it is now…

Actually we don’t care if aerobic proportion is only 5% during a 100m competition. The important thing is that aerobic is needed to balance all the components of training and has correlation with SE and competition result. Also, and what scientist will never know, a 100m competition is not only 10sec sprint, it is (hopefully) 4 races in two days with 4 x 2 hours warm-up.

Good point. When you look at it this way it really puts things in perspective. This makes Ben’s performance in Soeul even more impressive. How many of the world records after then were set in the finals at Major Championships?

Also were did you source the Werner Schäfer afticle? Are these availible on the net?




That data has been around since the late 1960’s, however data that has been presented to me in the last week suggests that, for the 400m, the level of aerobic involvement is closer to 45% in elite athletes.

But possibly as important is the buffering role haemoglobin and myoglobin play in the removal of hydrogen ions and CO2, which is a major contributor to the formation of hydrogen ions.

As you say these percentages do not represent the amount of training an athlete must perform in each area.

One thing I was surprised at was that a 58 second athlete was able to produce 20mmol of lactate. I struggle to see how some one with so little capacity for lactic tolerance could continue to generate enough power under fatigue to get up that high …

Dazed, could you share your sources (or the scientific sources) of this information?

How will this new data (assuming it is correct) affect your outlook on the event? Will you change anything about your training in light of it?



I was read the Data by a physiologist at the NSW Institiute of Sport. I may be able to get a hold of it for you. The info regarding the red blood cell and buffering appears to be basic biochemistry, just do a search and you should come up with info enough to keep you going for months.

My training already incorporates a reasonable amount of aerobic work (1 long run a week and 2 tempo sessions, as well as warm ups etc, and plays a role in some major workouts) so I don’t think there’s any need to alter my training in light of the data. It really just confirms my coach has me on the right track and offers one or two explanations as to why some elements are so effective and why some

It seems most of the top 400m coaches for the past 30 or so years have already covered this type of work in their programmes.

I am not a sprinter, or runner for that matter, but I was wondering how important an aerobic base is for the 100m. From what I understand strength, explosiveness, acceleration and speed are required for the 100m, but would long distance running be of any significance to a sprinter? Could a world class sprinter run 10 kilometers easily or do they lack slow titch muscle fibres?

… Maybe I am confusing myself …

You don’t need to do long runs. Tempo is used in many programs and some form of general fitness (whether it be extensive tempo or general strength circuits or something else) is used in every successful program. It helps aid in work capacity, general health, recovery from intense workouts, and capillirization (sp).

running 10k won’t give proper aerobic base for a sprinter, and might do damage in the tissue.
better way is to use tempo workouts.

Does this research really reveal new information?

If each of these events is predominantly aerobic in nature, then training that those same speeds will be aerobic training. I look at this research and think that the training that used to be considered speed training was really aerobic training all along.

There is no need to slow down much past 75% since the biomechanical patterns don’t even come close to the demands for sprinting.

How would you predict 10k pace anyway? Sprinters put into a 10k race would not have the background to generate a performance that give you a training pace to work off.

When training for the 100m we are training our nervous system to keep firing while it is in a fatigued state (Mach 1980). Yet, others including Mach state “the 100m is run at 100% oxygen debt.” Going on to say that the race is so short and intense it would not possible to use the oxygen obtained in the race. So are they proposing we can not use oxygen at all in the 100m, even though we are running in a fatigued state? Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron to me. If thats true then why breath at all, since the body won’t use any of it during the race! If I understand oxygen debt correctly, individuals who are more fit will be more efficient in dealing with the result of anaerobic respiration process. Thus there would seem to be a correlation between high intensity anaerobic work and low intensity aerobic work on some level. And also, just my opinion as well, but training like Dintiman (all speed work) is pure lunacy.


Any thoughts?

sorry all i am a sprint swimming coach but might be able to help

there are a few factors that would limit one’s ability to perform the 100m event (equal to 25m in swimming in time). The most obvious is an inability to achieve and maintain a high rate of speed. Performances within this time frame (100m run or 25 m swim)involve the rate of ATP recycling by both the ATP-CP system and the anaerobic metabolism and perhaps the maximum amount of creatine phosphate stored in the muscle fibers

Training should involve focusing on power and the rate of anaerobic metabolism. Swimmers are often coached to not breathe during the 50m or yrad event and trained to work this capacity into their sprinting. Improving buffering capacity and improving the rate of aerobic metabolism is not important.

The only side note to this are in the areas of recovery, drilling, technique all of which can be aerobically oriented. However, we should always remember that fast twitch fibers even at a young age can be damaged due to overtraining, high performance endurance or heavy aerobic volumes.

Great site CF…I am another Canadian who supports your endeavours in coaching.