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Clyde Hart coach to Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner. Part 2.

Source: www.sports-fitness.com

The 200m session is bread and butter work for Clyde’s 400m runners. It also reveals a lot about his training ethos – the emphasis on controlling the level of the work rather than flogging his athletes hard.

He explained the way it works: "The first time we do 15 in 35sec for the guys and 38sec for the women with a little over 2min rest. We run them as a five man relay - that means they can't go off to the rest room and they can't go and be sick.

"By accident I came across the greatest instrument - coach beeper. It is a box with a horn on it. You set a time and it will go off every however-many seconds. I got it for the distance kids so I could see how they were going while I was working with the high jumpers."

He could set it to go each 8sec, for example, for what should be a 64sec 400m pace session, and with cones each 50m he could see if they were running at the right pace.

"They keep going until they have run the number of 200ms they need to do. We call it a cold weather work out because you don't get cold - you can keep your sweats on to do it.

"One of the kids would run 28sec for one and the next would be 32sec. I didn't like the fact they were inconsistent but they still got the workout done.

"One day I said it was 8 x 200m in 28sec. They would run one in 26 then one in 32 to take a rest and that was not doing what I wanted. I introduced coach beeper and said he would be running 7sec for each 50m.

"The first time they were 15m ahead at the cone. By number six they were back on the beeper and a number of them were struggling. On number eight one guy actually leaned to beat the beeper on the line. I looked around and couldn't see the rest of them. They were all lying around or being sick. Even pace is harder than running hard and then taking a break. The rule is now they can't get more than two strides ahead of the beeper or I stop it.”

The second golden rule Clyde has is this: "Speed and strength are synonymous. Or put the other way strength and speed are synonymous."

The 200m session sees the target time being the number of reps plus 20. For example, 8 in 28sec, 10 in 30, or 15 in 35sec.

"Michael Johnson did eight in 28 in 2000 and he did the same in 1987. It is for training the body, it is not he couldn't go any faster. He could have been doing 5 in 25sec but where was he going to go? He would hit a wall. It is about the amount of work being done. You can use a whistle and a watch or a watch with a beeper.

"By mid-May it is 5 x 200m in 25sec for the top kids. If you have got five people per team you only get 1min 40sec rest rather than the 2min 20sec for the 35sec efforts. You have got to go faster with shorter rest. There are only a handful that can do five in 25sec. Michael got down to three in 23sec before Atlanta. He was taking 1min 30sec rest and did it from a dead start not a rolling start as a relay.

"Other kids have tried four in 24 and not managed it. It depends on how you time it. It should never be a race and never be a time trial. It is a progressive session.”


Clyde does not have the sessions on given days by chance there is method to what is done when. Clyde explained the thinking behind Tuesday’s training. He also gave proof of how conditioning is key.

He said: "Monday is a good day to do the session. We used to do it on Tuesday's. They race Saturday and rest Sunday so Monday ought to be a good work out. But they complain and moan on a Monday - we call it ‘Blue Monday’ as they gripe and moan. By Tuesday most of the kids have got it out of the system.

"Tuesday is an over distance day. We start it early in the year doing the half miles and cutting it down, moving the finish cone, getting shorter but faster. We do them in sets of two. The half milers may do more sets but with the same principle.

"For 400m we do 2.5 times race distance so workouts are about 1000m long but we can go well over that when building the base.

"I'll give you two examples of why these workouts work. We don't have the luxury of going in the lab to measure VO2max or lactate every day.

"The very first year I put it in the 200m workout we had our mile [4 x 400m] relay team run 3min 12sec mid-April - that's a 48sec average. It was going to take 3min 10sec to win the Texas relays. We had always put off speed work until two weeks before the Texas relays but we kept postponing our speed work because of the bad weather. The kids kept saying ‘We have not done our first speed work’. One kid said: ‘All we have been doing is those stupid 200s’. They had done seven in 27. As I have said I believe that strength and speed are synonymous. We had been doing drills and quick step work in the gym.

"We got in a battle with Texas Southern in the relays and finished in 3min 6.8sec - a dead heat.”

The team had averaged 46.7sec per 400m leg.

Clyde revealed: "On the way back I asked our anchor leg runner, "How did you feel, you were worried about not being quick and fast?" Without hesitation he said, ‘Number five.’ I asked what he meant and he said he felt like he was running number five of the 27sec efforts. That was in 1975.

"Six in 26sec still hurts even for Michael Johnson. The 400m is a phosphate race. You can replenish your reserves even if you take a short rest.

"In 1997 in the third week of April Michael ran 43.68sec. Michael had not run faster than 28sec for 200m - he had done drills and 40 yard sprints and he had done hills. I also had a collegiate runner do 45sec the same day so it was not just Michael.

"Speed and strength are synonymous."


Clyde has had to work out ways to ensure the athletes reach the races fit – and that includes injury free.

Clyde said: "This system was working for him [Michael Johnson] but he was getting hurt doing 150m to 100m one day a week. So we changed his stretching and weight room routine. By 1990 he was injury free. Michael only ran 100m twice. He ran 10.11sec in the prelims at Waco but hurt his hamstring before he ran the final. At Knoxville he wanted to run the 100m, he ran 10.08sec but injured his hamstring again. That is why he never ran a lot of 100ms. From 100m to 400m is too far apart.

"We decided that nothing was to be all out except the relay exchange practices and starts. We would go from 15m to 60m run hard off blocks on the bend prior to competition. Other than that it was 400m type workouts.

"We did some 150m build ups or 50m hard, 50m relax, hard 50m."

"He didn't do a lot of speed work, he did a lot of hard work. The rest of them were doing the same workouts.”

Clyde was asked about Johnson’s training before running 19.32sec for 200m and said that this was still the case then.

Clyde said Johnson would not go flat out in training and that it was not desirable to do so: "We were not trying to set world records [in training] we were interested in getting fast. Michael Johnson can't run as fast as he can race in training. It has got to be submaximal. You need to slow it down and get more work done. I have nothing against doing faster 200m intervals but it can be done the other way.

"We don't do full racing speed or time trials but after training we will do 4 x 40m hard with 30sec rest. I tell them that's their reward for a good workout.”

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