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

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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.

RELATED: How Do I Improve My Kick?

So how can you work on your ability to turn your legs over when they’re tired? One workout I like to employ every couple weeks during the meat of a training cycle is 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. In fact, I recommend you avoid doing so. 

— 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. Note: If you’re not using a track, jog for 60 seconds after finishing the tempo run and go right into running 60 seconds slightly 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. Note: If you’re not using a track, jog for 1 minute as recovery following the 1-minute pickup, then run 30 seconds a little faster than you did for the fast 60-second 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 of max effort, focusing on a quick turnover, while lifting your knees, driving your arms and maintaining strong form. Note: 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!

— If you’re new to speed workouts or have a race coming up in the next 3-5 days, that’s it. Your workout is finished. If you’re an experienced racer and/or are not racing for a couple weeks, take 10 minutes recovery after finishing the fast 100m and repeat the entire sequence: 2-3 mile tempo run at half-marathon pace followed by one 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. In fact, I recommend you avoid doing so. 

— 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. Note: If you’re not using a track, jog for 60 seconds seconds after finishing the tempo run and go right into running 60 seconds at 10-15 seconds slightly 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. Note: If you’re not using a track, jog for 1 minute as recovery following the 1-minute pickup, then run 30 seconds a little faster than you did for the fast 60-second 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 of max effort, focusing on a quick turnover, while lifting your knees, driving your arms and maintaining strong form. Note: 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 5 minutes for recovery and repeat only the interval sequence: 300m-200m-100m intervals (0r 60-30-15-second pickups) as described above.

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

RELATED: Speed Development For Distance Runners

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