Workout Of The Week: The Short Circuit

An open area or park with grass is the perfect place to perform the short circuit workout. Photo: Scott Draper/Competitor

Want to become a better runner? This session rolls speed, stamina and strength all into one workout!

Regardless of our individual ability levels, as runners we all share in one fundamental goal: to improve. And in order to do so, we know it’s important to train three key elements to one degree or another, namely speed, stamina and strength. Where the issue often arises, however, is in finding the time to cover all of these bases during the course of a given week of training. How is it possible to effectively complete one workout without taking away from another? The solution to this problem is as simple as wrapping the three essential training elements into one workout once a week. It’s a little doozy I like to call The Short Circuit.

This workout requires a small amount of logistical work, so before you get going I recommend scouting out a nearby track, an open area at a local park, or quiet stretch of uninterrupted road in close proximity to a grass field to perform some of the ancillary exercises involved. For you gym rats who are tied to your treadmill, an indoor setup will suffice for this session, too. You’ll also need a basic watch with a chronograph or timer setting to keep track of time. When all is said and done, one set of the Short Circuit leaves you with 8 minutes of quality running and 3 to 4 minutes of supplementary total body strength work.

So without further ado, here’s how the Short Circuit session breaks down:


  • Jog for 10-15 minutes; follow with dynamic stretching exercises (explained here) and four to six 20-second strides at 5K effort.

Short Circuit (One Set)

  • * Begin with 10 standard pushups and immediately follow with a 30-second sprint at 90% of max effort. Note: Focus on maintaining good form throughout these two exercises.
  • * Take a 30-second standing/walking recovery, then assume a front plank position for 30 seconds (see explanation/diagram of exercise here).
  • * Follow front plank with with 1 minute of easy walking/jogging, then immediately transition into 1 minute of running at 5K race effort.
  • * Take a 1-minute standing/walking recovery, then perform 10 reverse dips on a chair or bench.
  • * Immediately follow the dips with a 30-second sprint at 90% of max effort. Your arms will be tired, but use them!
  • * Jog easily for 1 minute, then assume a plank position on the right side for 30 seconds. Repeat exercise for 30 seconds on the left side.
  • * Immediately after completing the side planks, catch your breath for 30 seconds of so, then run 5 minutes at an effort that falls between 10K and half marathon race pace.
  • * Take a 1-minute walking/jogging recovery after your 5-minute effort.
  • * Perform a set of burpees for 30 seconds. RELATED — Best Strengthening Exercise For Runners: The Burpee
  • * Take a 1-minute standing/walking recovery after the burpees and finish with 1 minute of fast, but relaxed running at 5K race pace. If you want to simulate kicking at the end of a race, try sprinting the final 15 to 20 seconds.
  • * Wiped? You should be!


  • Jog for 10-15 minutes; follow with gentle static stretching exercises (explained here) and a shake or snack to kickstart the recovery process.

This is NOT an easy workout –especially the first time around — so be sure to recover accordingly! If you haven’t been doing any intense speed workouts or supplementary strengthening exercises this session will likely leave you sore for a few days, so adjust the number of sets and effort level given your age, experience and training goals. That said, one to three sets of the Short Circuit is more than enough work one session, regardless of how experienced or fit you are.

If you know what you need to do to become a better runner but aren’t sure how you’re going to fit it all in, then make this once-a-week workout a part of your regular routine!

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