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Cross Training For Runners

The Best Yasso 800 Workout for A Marathon PR

4 Mins read

If you have ever trained for a marathon or had a specific marathon goal, you more than likely have heard of the famous Yasso 800 workout.

You might even have tried them in the past.

Yasso 800s are a popular workout among serious runners looking to run their fastest marathon ever.

In this article, I’ll share with you the full guide to Yasso 800s, covering the basics, history as well as how to add the session into your training plan in the most effective way.

Sounds great?

Let’s get started.

What Is Yasso 800 Workout?

Although the long run is the bread and butter of marathon training, it’s by no means the only workout you should be doing, especially if you have a specific marathon goal in mind.

In fact, regardless of your marathon goals, performing Yasso 800s is a sure way to help you achieve them.

So what are they all about?

Quite simple. Yasso 800s involves performing 800-meter reps, usually on a standard track.

The goal behind them is to get your body accustomed to running at the exact pace you’ll run during the event with minimal recovery between sets.

More specifically, performing a series (usually 10) 800 meters reps alternated with short breaks will simulate the effort and pace of running a marathon at your target pace.

Before I explain more, let’s first say a few words about the man behind the workout. He coined it, after all.

Enter Yasso Bart – The Gurus’ Guru

As the name implies, Yasso 800s comes from Bart Yasso, the legendary biathlete and former chief running officer at Runner’s World Magazine.

Having run races on all seven continents, he’s unofficially referred to in the running community as “the mayor of running.”

Yasso won the 1987 U.S. national Biathlon Long Course Championship, ran the Badwater Ultramarathon, and has competed in five Ironman triathlons.

In other words, the guy is a true running legend.

The Theory Behind The 800 Yasso Workout

Yasso 800s are popular because they’re a quick and simple way to guestimate your marathon time based on your 800-meter time.

According to Yasso, the average time it takes a runner to perform ten 800-m intervals in minutes and seconds roughly correlates to the marathon time expect to run in hours and minutes.

For example, if you ran 800-meters in two minutes and 40 seconds on the track, your estimated marathon time will be around two hours and forty minutes.

The workout is also simple. The session consists of 10 intervals of 800-meters (or two laps around a standard track), with recovery intervals of the same length between each interval.

Additional resource – How to qualify for the Boston Marathon

The Best Yasso 800 Workout for A Marathon PR

Start by determining your marathon goal time in hours and minutes. Next, convert it to minutes and seconds.

For example, if you’re shooting for a four-hour marathon ( a common goal among beginner runners), your converted time will 4 minutes per interval.

By the same token, if you’re a faster runner aiming for a sub-3 hour marathon, your Yasso 800m goal time should be a sub 3 minutes too.

Once you have figured out your time, perform the following routine.

  • Warm-up. This is the first step. Perform a 10-minute dynamic warm-up that consists of 5 minutes of jogging and another 5 minutes of dynamic warm-up exercises (as described here). You can also perform a few 100-meter strides to get your body really ready for faster-paced running.
  • 800-meter interval. Run your first 800 meters (roughly half a mile) at your converted time (4 minutes in this example).
  • Recovery: Jog slowly for the same amount of time to recover. (again, 4 minutes in this example)
  • Repeat: Shoot for three to four reps per session in the first few weeks. Up the ante later on.
  • Cool-down: Finish your session with 5 to 10 minutes of easy jogging, following by stretching.

And voila! There’s nothing to it but to do it.

Yasso 800s Workout for a marathon

How Many 800s Reps?

Although the exact number of intervals you perform may vary according to your fitness, when this is your first time doing Yasso 800s, start with no more than four reps and work your way up to completing ten in a single session two weeks before race day.

As you get fitter, aim to add one more repetition every other week until you reach ten repetitions per training session.

It should feel really easy during the first few weeks and don’t worry about running under your goal time. Don’t chew more than you can swallow, or you’ll regret it later on.

Can’t keep up the goal pace throughout all the intervals? Then simply stick with fewer reps again during your next speedwork—only progress when you can handle it.

Additional resource – When to skip a run

How Many Yasso 800s Workouts Per Week?

Aim to complete one Yasso 800-m session a week. Doing more will defeat the purpose, and remember that a well-rounded marathon training program includes other sessions, such as easy runs, interval workouts, and the long run.

Where To Do Yasso 800 Workout?

The best—and most practical place—to perform Yasso 800s is on a track since it makes it easy to measure 800 meters, which is about two laps around a standard track, or roughly one-half mile.

However, feel free to also do the workout on a treadmill as long as you keep track of how far and fast you’re running.

What’s more?

As long as you know the distance, feel free to do Yasso 800s on a long stretch of rad if you have a track or treadmill at hand.

Follow A Well Rounded Marathon Training Plan

Although Yasso 800s are a tried-and-true strategy for running a faster marathon, the workout is not the answer to all of your marathon prayers. In fact, it should be used in conjunction with other training runs, such as tempo and long runs.

As a rule, you should follow a well-rounded training plan that includes various runs such as progress, tempo, and long runs, especially long runs with a few miles at your goal marathon pace.

What’s more?

Besides endurance, speedwork training can take a toll on your body, so cap it at no more than twice per week to prevent injury and/or burnout when training for a marathon.

The guy himself prescribes doing the workout one per week, but if you haven’t been doing speed work lately,  feel free to do the Yasso 800s every other week.

That’s ok, too.

Check the couch to marathon plan.

Yasso 800 Workout – Conclusion

There you have it! If you’re planning to add the Yasso 800 workouts to your running plan, then this article should be enough to set you on the right path. The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.

Keep training strong

David D.

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