Check out these lung-busting workouts, then head out the door and give them a try!
You don’t get to be an elite runner, an Olympian or a world medalist by slacking off. But what that means depends on the athlete.
Some runners have routes they know exactly how long it takes them to complete: a certain time means they’re ready to go. Others tick off track sets every week to watch their numbers drop.
Nearly every elite runner, however, has staples of their routine, workouts that they return to again and again.
Manteo Mitchell, whose favorite workout below is the most intricate, said he likes to compare training notes with other athletes at races. When he does, he finds that they’re doing intervals with much more rest or with different targets, “but we’re running the same times in races.” That’s because there is no secret sauce. “It varies athlete to athlete,” he said.
Keep that in mind as you mix these elites’ favorite workouts into your schedule. Your times probably will not be their times. And, there’s a reason their favorite workouts vary so much, because as long as you’re working hard some of the details are just a matter of preference.
Fleshman has named her favorite workout “The Standard,” because it’s a standard you can do anywhere, anytime. “It's perfect for when you're coming off injury or illness and just need a first hard effort without worrying about details. Or it's great for travel, or five to seven days before a big race,” she said. The Standard is: 3-6 sets x [2 minutes on, 1 minute off, 1 minute on, 2 minutes off]. Run the 2-minute efforts at 5,000 meter pace and the 1-minute efforts slightly faster. Off means off. Photo: Courtesy of Oiselle
Shannon Rowbury, 1500m Olympian and world championships bronze medalist
“We do sets of 600-meter breakdowns a lot,” said Rowbury. It’s like a ladder that gets faster as you go: 600m at slightly slower than mile race pace, rest/recovery, 400m slightly faster, rest/recovery, 300m, rest/recovery, and then 200m faster than mile race pace. It’s a workout that her coach Alberto Salazar has her do regularly to build strength and speed, without breaking down the body too much. “It's a nice way to mix up the paces,” she said. Photo: www.photorun.net
Richard Jones, 1500m and 800m runner, indoor 4 x 800m relay WR holder
Jones is not the only athlete who subscribes to repeat 200s as a key workout to build speed and stamina. It’s long enough—and if you do enough of them—for you get muscle adaptation at that speed. “You really get to work on the small details,” said Jones, focusing on your rhythm and form. Every other week throughout the season he does 12 x 200m, with a 100m jog in between. You might not do them as fast as Jones does, but it should be as fast as can be maintained for that many repeats. Photo: www.photorun.net
Ryan Wilson, 2013 110m hurdles U.S. champion and worlds silver medalist
When he was still in college at USC 13 years ago, Wilson started doing this key hurdle speed workout. If you want to still be winning national hurdle titles at 32 years old, then try this: remove some hurdles to create what Wilson calls “over-speed zones.” For example, Wilson starts from the blocks and runs over hurdles 1-3, 5, 6, 8-10. He’ll do this workout with 3-5 repetitions multiple times in the spring, before the season starts, and a few days before a race. “The workout is designed to work on handling hurdles at speed. I like it so much, because it challenges your technical discipline and endurance at a high speed,” said Wilson. Photo: www.photorun.net
Ben True, world cross country championships silver medalist
True has also named his workout fave: The Michigan. It’s his coach, Tim Broe’s, variation of a workout from University of Michigan coach Ron Warhurst. “It blends tempo and fast intervals together, forcing the body to learn to recover at tempo pace,” said True—and he does it throughout the season. The Michigan: 1600m interval, 2000m tempo, 1200m interval, 2000m tempo, 800m interval, 2000m tempo, 400m interval. The key is that the tempo is tempo, but the interval efforts are hard, depending on your race pace and the race you’re preparing for. True adjusts the paces and amount of rest based on where he’s at in his season. Photo: www.photorun.net
Manteo Mitchell, 4 x 400m relay Olympic silver medalist and world indoors champion
Mitchell’s key big workout is a little complicated. Best known for breaking his leg while running in the 2012 Olympic 4 x 400m prelims and still finishing his 400m in 46 seconds, Mitchell is tough. Some of that grit comes from workouts like this one, which he does on weeks he doesn’t have a big race on the weekend. “It’s a really tough one, but it’s one that let’s me know if I do this I’m ready to go,” said Mitchell.
First, the warm-up: 2 x 20m single leg rotation, 2 x 20m fall start, 2 x 20m three-point start, 4 x 20m start off blocks, 2 x bench, 4 x cones. What does that all mean? The single leg rotations, three-point starts, and falling starts are just to get warmed up without blocks. Then, if you’re going to be a sprinter, you have to do some start practice out of the blocks. The bench drill has Mitchell sitting on a bench working on knee lift. And, then, he places 21 cones spaced about six-and-a-half feet apart, and runs over them to work on stride length and a quick strike.
Then you get down to the meat of the workout: 2 x 40m full-speed out of blocks, 4 x speed pull (using a pulley system), 4 x relay exchange practice, 2 x 80m, 300m—1 minute rest—90m, 150m—45 seconds rest—150m, 90m—30 seconds rest—90m. The running at the end is fast, really fast. Mitchell set a 300m PR while doing this workout last week. You’ll want a few minutes rest between the running then to run your own PRs. “And there you have it,” said Mitchell. “My terrible track Tuesday workout.” Photo: www.photorun.net
Monica Hargrove, 4 x 400m relay gold, silver medalist at the world indoors
"One of my favorite workouts is 8-10 repeat 200s,” said Hargrove. Just like Jones, Hargrove likes to run sets of 200m to build up her speed and stamina. It sounds easy, but with just 90 seconds to 2 minutes for recovery it will get tough. Hargrove does the workout earlier in the week to give herself time to recover before whatever race might be the following weekend. Photo: www.photorun.net
Deena Kastor, 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist
Kastor said her key workout is: 3 x 2-mile repeats either around the lakes where she lives at 9,000-feet above sea level or on a challenging cross country-style course set up in the forest. “It is such a great strength builder and I look forward to these in the beginning of the season to give me a solid foundation,” said Kastor. She first did 2-mile repeats preparing for the 2004 Olympics and now does them three or four weeks in a row, about two months before peak races. As she gets closer to her target races, she switches to mile or 1000m repeats. Photo: www.photorun.net