With less than a week to go before the Boston Marathon, I figured I would toss out a great workout that I use to help determine overall fitness and gauges marathon goal pace. This is a workout I did weeks ago and was very pleased with the results.
Named after Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World Magazine, Bart Yasso, this workout is a staple of marathon preparation. Just Google “Yasso 800s” and you will find a bevy of info about this workout.
I usually do this workout several times leading up to a marathon and compare them to see how much of an improvement in time I have had, or if the overall effort of the second time around feels easier and more comfortable. The goal is consistency, not to be faster each time.
The workout consists of 10x800, which is 10 repetitions of a distance of 800 meters, with equal time rest between each repetition. The theory behind Yasso 800’s is that if you have a goal marathon time of 3 hours 10 minutes, for example, the time it takes you to run each 800 meters should be right around 3 minutes 10 seconds. If your goal is 02:55:00, your 800’s would be 0:02:55. Remember, consistency is key. If the effort feels moderately easy for you, great! Lock that goal pace in your mind and ride it until race day. If it is difficult, you might need some more specific speed and endurance work, or rethink your goal time. That is why I suggest doing this several times leading up to the race.
Regardless of the claims of this workout being a determinant of your marathon time, it is a killer workout and a lot of fun.
How to do the workout
A track is the easiest place to do this workout, but you can also run on roads or a treadmill. Warm up with an easy mile or two. Then, if you are on a track, do your first set of 800 meters (two laps around the track). Hit the lap button on your watch or make a mental note of your time. Take that amount of time as your rest period before you start the next 800 meters. I usually just drop my pace down to a jog. Feel free to walk or stop. When rest time is up, run another 800 meters and make note of your time. Repeat this process until you have completed 10 sets of 800 meters. Don’t forget to cool down afterward with an easy mile or two and some stretching.
TIP – Before you start, pick up 10 small stones, or whatever you can find, that you can hold in one hand. Toss one out for each set completed. When your hand is empty, you are done. Tossing that last stone is a great feeling! Thank you, Coach Kyle, for that tip!
Ideally, you would start Yasso 800’s early in your training cycle and do a shorter set – 6x800 for example. Then a week or two later, work your way up to 8x800. When you finally do the 10x800, it is good to repeat that same workout closer to race day to compare where you are to how it felt the first time.
I did this workout several times leading up to the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, New York, last year with a goal of running the race in under three hours. I had dialed in my 800 meter repetitions slightly under three minutes each and was feeling confident. I ended up finishing the race in 2:59:49. Below, I am telling Bart all about it after that race. Give this workout a shot even if you aren’t in marathon mode. It is a nice change of pace workout regardless of the goal.