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Workout of the Week: The 3-2-1 Sandwich

  • By Mario Fraioli
  • Published Oct. 10, 2013
  • Updated Oct. 14, 2013 at 12:19 PM UTC
Sandwiching short intervals on the track between tempo efforts is a great way to improve your ability to finish fast. Photo: Scott Draper/Competitor

Tired of getting passed at the end of a race? Practice finishing fast on fatigued legs!

“I wish I just had one more gear,” is a phrase you’ll hear muttered by many a runner after a race, particularly if he or she happened to be passed in the final few hundred yards before the finish line.

While not everyone is fortunate enough to be blessed with a killer kick, the ability to finish fast is a skill that can be practiced and improved. The runner with the best natural leg speed isn’t always the one who reaches the finish line first; more often than not, it’s the runner who is strong enough to summon up a sprint while fatigued.

So how can you work on your ability to turn your legs over when they’re tired? One workout I like to employ every other week in the meat of a training cycle is a version of a little session I call the 3-2-1 Sandwich. Different variations of this workout can work for runners focusing on distances ranging from the 5K to the marathon. It’s most effective if done from/at a track, but it can be amended to work in any environment. Give it a shot!

Standard 3-2-1 Sandwich

– Warm up with 15-20 minutes of easy jogging, followed by dynamic stretchingdrills and strides.

– Perform a 2-3 mile tempo run at half-marathon race pace, preferably starting and ending at the track (Note: You don’t necessarily have to do the tempo run on the track).

– Upon completing the tempo run, jog onto the track and go right into running 300 meters (3/4 of the way around) 10-15 seconds per mile faster than your 5K pace. If you’re not using a track, jog for 30 to 60 seconds seconds after finishing the tempo run and go right into running 1 minute at 10-15 seconds per mile faster than your 5K pace. Think: FAST!

– Following the 300m interval, jog 200 meters (1/2 lap) for recovery, and go right into running 200 meters a few seconds per mile faster than the fast 300 you just completed. If you’re not using a track, jog for 1 minute as recovery following the 1-minute pickup, then run 30 seconds a few seconds per mile faster than you did for the fast 1-minute pickup. Think: Faster!  

– After the faster 200m interval, jog 100m (1/4 lap or the length of a curve or straightaway) for recovery and finish with 100m at about 90 percent effort, focusing on a quick turnover, while lifting your knees, driving your arms and maintaining strong form. If you’re not using a track, jog for 30 seconds as recovery following the 30-second pickup, then run for 15 seconds at a pace that’s faster than your previous two pickups. Think: Fastest!

– Following the fast 100m (or 15-second pickup), take 8-10 minutes recovery (or jog a slow mile) and repeat the entire sequence: 2-3 mile tempo run at half-mararthon pace followed by a set of of 300m-200m-100m intervals (0r 60-30-15-second pickups).

– Cool down with 15-20 minutes of easy jogging.

Open-Faced 3-2-1 Sandwich

– Warm up with 15-20 minutes of easy jogging, followed by dynamic stretchingdrills and strides.

– Perform a 4-6 mile tempo run at half-marathon race pace, preferably starting and ending at the track (Note: You don’t necessarily have to do the tempo run on the track).

– Upon completing the tempo run, jog onto the track and go right into running 300 meters (3/4 of the way around) 10-15 seconds per mile faster than your 5K pace. If you’re not using a track, jog for 30 to 60 seconds seconds after finishing the tempo run and go right into running 1 minute at 10-15 seconds per mile faster than your 5K pace. Think: FAST!

– Following the 300m interval, jog 200 meters (1/2 lap) for recovery, and go right into running 200 meters a few seconds per mile faster than the fast 300 you just completed. If you’re not using a track, jog for 1 minute as recovery following the 1-minute pickup, then run 30 seconds a few seconds per mile faster than you did for the fast 1-minute pickup. Think: Faster!  

– After the 200m interval, jog 100m (1/4 lap or the length of a curve or straightaway) and finish with 100m at about 90 percent effort, focusing on a quick turnover, while lifting your knees, driving your arms and maintaining strong form. If you’re not using a track, jog for 30 seconds as recovery following the 30-second pickup, then run for 15 seconds at a pace that’s faster than your previous two pickups. Think: Fastest!

– Following the fast 100m (or 15-second pickup), take 3 minutes for recovery and repeat the interval sequence ONLY: 300m-200m-100m intervals (0r 60-30-15-second pickups) as described above.

– Cool down with 15-20 minutes of easy jogging.

FILED UNDER: Training / workout of the week TAGS: / /

Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli is a senior editor at Competitor magazine. A cross-country All-American at Stonehill College in 2003, he now coaches the Prado Women's Racing Team in San Diego and was the men's marathon coach for Costa Rica's 2012 Olympic team. His first book, The Official Rock 'n' Roll Guide To Marathon & Half-Marathon Training (VeloPress, 2013) is available in bookstores, running shops and online.

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