Workout Of The Week: 600-Meter Breakdowns

It doesn't matter what you're training for, there's a place for these in your training.

Six-hundred-meter breakdowns are a great speed workout for all distance runners. Whether you’re a first-year runner or a veteran competitor, whether you race 5Ks or marathons, there’s a place for 600-meter breakdowns in your training.

The workout consists of fast intervals of 600, 400, 300, and 200 meters run in descending order. These intervals are short enough to be run very quickly and thus develop the speed and sharpness you need to achieve your race goals. But those 600m intervals are long enough to also test and develop your body’s fatigue resistance at faster speeds. So, by no means is this a sprinter’s workout. Six-hundred-meter breakdowns develop speed in a way that helps you improve your 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon times — not your 100m dash time!

Like all workouts involving very fast running, 600m breakdowns require a thorough warmup. Start with some light jogging, then perform some dynamic flexibility exercises, such as giant walking lunges and standing forward-backward and side-to-side leg swings. Finally, run a few strides (100m runs at 90% sprint speed). Now you’re ready to break it down!

How fast should you run the fast intervals? Almost — but not quite — as fast as you can. Go very hard but stay relaxed and take the edge of the misery you would feel in a true all-out effort. Write your times down in your training log for comparison with future 600m breakdown sessions.

Here are two versions of the 600m breakdowns workout:

Beginner Version

Warmup: Run 10 minutes easy, dynamic flexibility, strides

Main set: Run 600m, 400m, 300m, and 200m fast with slow, 300m jogging recoveries between fast intervals

Cooldown: Run 10 minutes easy

Advanced Version

Warmup: Run 20 minutes easy, dynamic flexibility, strides

Main set: Run 2-3 x (600m, 400m, 300m, 200m fast with 300m jog recoveries)

Cooldown: Run 20 minutes easy

Even the advanced version of 600m breakdowns is not a killer workout. Because 600m breakdowns are not highly race-specific for distance runners, they are not intended to be among the toughest workouts you do. You should finish a session of 600m breakdowns feeling as much exhilarated by the speed you attained as you do tired from the effort.

Incorporating 600m Breakdowns into Your Training

When should you do 600m breakdowns? They’re pretty challenging, so you should keep them out of your training until you’re within 10 weeks of a race and actively pursuing peak race fitness. Once you introduce them into your training, you’ll want to do them and/or similar workouts once every seven to ten days to develop speed and high-intensity fatigue resistance and then maintain these capacities until you race.