Anatomy of a Training Run: the Yasso 800
Anyone that's trained for any long distance race know that there is enough running jargon in one 16-week training plan to fill a dictionary...the Yasso 800 is no different (the workout is the brainchild of Bart Yasso, hence the name).You've probably been living under a rock if you're a runner and you haven't heard of them. At it's simplest, it's just another form of speedwork to enhance a training plan. The more complex explanation: if you want to run a 4 hour marathon, you train to run 800 repeats in 4 minutes each (a 3:30 marathon? run the 800s in 3 minutes 30 seconds, etc.etc.etc.)
In doing a little research on the topic, the Y800s are a pretty controversial subject when it comes to marathon training (you can read more about it here, here, here and here). Some people believe they are a good predictor of your marathon time, many don't, and others like to think they're simply optimistic. There is a lot of disagreement about whether or not they're even a good way to train for a marathon - after all, the energy system your body employs to run an 800 (anaerobic, running at a pace above your lactate threshold) is different than the energy system used for a marathon (aerobic, paces below your lactate threshold). I'm no running coach and I'm not a trained professional, but my training plans always come from a mix of professional running advice, advice from friends and my own experience. It seems like Yasso 800s aren't the BEST way to train for a marathon, but paired with long runs, short runs, pace runs and crosstraining...they become just another tool your marathon training arsenal.
For me, it's all about breaking my marathon up into smaller, bite-sized pieces...because speed intervals are the bane of my marathon training existence. Sure, running mile repeats would be a more effective predictor of my finishing time and maybe even more beneficial in the long haul. I've been through mile repeats and back, though, and I hate them. Yasso 800s are going to give me a chance to change things up. I've said it from the beginning, my marathon training is going to be flexible. If the 800 repeats don't work for me, then I'll try something different. This time around, it's all about listening to my body.
So here's the workout:
Begin running your 800s a few months before your goal marathon
On the first week, do four repeats:
run 800 in your goal time (a 3:30 marathon translates to a 3 minute 30 second 800)
jog in between repeats for the same amount of time
Each subsequent week, add one more repeat until you get to 10
Complete your last Y800 at least 2 weeks before race day
Have you used Yasso 800s in your marathon training? What do you think? What other types of speed work do you typically include in training, if any?