Category Archives: Speed

Junk Science- 15 Minutes on a Stationary Bike Could Make You a Faster Runner

My rebuttal to a Runner’s World Junk Science Article

Articles like this drive me crazy. Based on this article, to improve your 3,000 M time (and probably your 5k time as well) you should hop on a bike and do short intense reps with short rest intervals- right?

Not so fast!  While there are interesting implications for runners in the story and it demonstrates that short intervals with short rest improve speed performance it does NOT by any stretch demonstrate that cycling is the best way to become a better runner!


  1. If you take a bunch of runners and one sub set does everything the same, and the other adds additional exercise, the ones doing extra work get faster. Duh.
  2. Among the ones doing extra work, the shorter rest intervals athletes improve the most. Duh.

What if your compared a group of people who did short bursts of running with short rest intervals to runners who trained with short bursts of cycling and short rest intervals? We don’t know for sure but I suspect the answer is that the principal of specificity comes into play and the runners get better at running while the athletes doing the cycling training improve some but not as much as they would if they did the running sprints.

I still don’t understand the running community’s fascination with cross-training. I love to run. Running is the best training for running. Not swimming, not cycling, not yoga, not cross fit, not burpees, not Zumba, or anything else. If you want to get better at running, RUN! Or try Cat Flexing. I’m pretty sure there’s a scientific study showing how it can help you run a faster 5k.

Cat Flexing! The new Cross-Training Fad! Cat-Fit!
Cat Flexing! The new Cross-Training Fad! Cat-Fit!

Three Track Sessions to Get Mentally Ready to Race

Many of us focus on the physical aspects of  track workouts. We look for hard sessions that balance speed, strength and pace work for a goal race. The often overlooked aspect is finding sessions that mentally prepare us for the race. Here are three workouts that will get you physically AND mentally ready for your next race.


Ready to RACE!
Ready to RACE!


2 Mile + 6 X 300: Run 3200M (2miles) at goal 5K pace. Rest 5 min. Then do 6 X 300 with 100 rest.

Run the 300s at a little faster than 1 Mile goal pace.

The idea of this workout is to wear out your legs on the 3200 M and then run the 300s feeling tired; just like the last part of a race feels. This workout gives you confidence that even with rubber legs, you can still run fast and finish strong.

Alternating Pace 400 /200: Run 3 miles continuously, alternating between:

  • 400 at 5K goal pace (or just a little faster)
  • 200 at Half Marathon goal pace

Or it could be written out as 8 X 400 with 200 rest. Run 400s at 5K goal pace, run 200s (rest) at Half Marathon goal pace.

Have you ever gone out a little too fast in a 5K and then had to recover during mile two (while still running fast) and resume full 5K speed for the last part of the race? Or have you had to respond to a surge in a 10K and then get back in a groove? Or fight up a hill and have to recover while still running hard?  This workout teaches you to shift gears and recover during a race which gives you a tactical advantage. Plus, the time you can run for 3 miles alternating paces, is very close to what you will run for a 5K race so it is a good prediction workout too.

14X400 Descending Rest: Rest 1:30 between rep 1 and rep 2, rest 1:20 between rep 2 and rep 3….. deduct :10 each rest interval until the rest before rep 14 is :10 sec. Run reps 4-5 seconds faster than 5K goal pace. So if your 5K goal pace is 6:00 per mile, that’s 1:30 per 400 M, so run these in 1:25 or 1:26. Don’t go too fast early in this one! You’re probably used to doing 400s faster than this but the short rest at the end will bite you. This purpose of this workout is to exercise control early, knowing that it will get harder- just like a race. You have to start out controlled and smooth and then be ready to fight the last few reps.

Pick one or two of these during the lead-up to your next race and you’ll have a mental toughness advantage.

And Everyone Ran Faster!

We were running races at track practice last night. I paired up kids so I’d have 2 kids of similar speed running together. The race was a slight downhill on grass of about 60M. I was at the bottom with my watch giving the starter’s commands. The kids know to stand tall, step up for “On your Mark!” crouch down for “Set!” and then start on “Go!”. With kids running from age 4 to 12, we had quite a range of times and skill levels.

After three rounds, I ran up to the start and gave two bits of coaching:

  1. Run through the finish. Pretend the real finish line is 10 steps past where I’m standing.
  2. Keep your knees high- just like we do in the High Knees drill.

I ran back down and began calling them up to the line again. Here’s the best part- Every kid ran a little faster than they did on the previous three rounds!

Now to hurdles. Same race course but with three hay bales turned on their side making hurdles that were knee high for me. I gave some brief instructions and this time we went one at a time since we only had one “lane” to run.

After three rounds, I gave one bit of coaching:

  • Remember your arms? How do you use your arms for sprints? It’s the same for hurdles. Practice your arm swing. We all stood there and practiced arm swing.

Back to the races! As each kid came to the line I’d yell, “Remember your arms! To your Mark!….” Again every kid ran faster.

So the lesson the kids taught me is that the little things really do matter. Of course, I’ve heard that many times from teachers, coaches, and other wise people over the years. But nothing proves it as clearly at the numbers on a watch and a smile on a runner’s face.

Maybe Al Oerter summed it up best:

I’ve thrown for forty-five years on an average of 10,000 throws a year. That’s 450,000 throws and not one of those throws has ever been perfect. There was always something else I could have done to make the prior throw just a little bit better. I think if we attack life in that same manner we can do some wonderful things on this earth.

-Al Oerter Four time Olympic Gold Medalist

Speed Drill Sets and Sprint Sets

Speed Workouts

S1       Straights and Curves: Sprint / stride the straightaway on the track and jog / walk the curves. 2-4 laps

S2       Ladder: 100M (100M), 200M (200M), 300M (100M), 200M (200M), 100M.  Do the ladder X2 for a more challenging workout.

S3       Progression Run: Run one lap on the track, start at an easy jog pace, and gradually speed up throughout the lap until you finish the last 50M at a sprint / very fast pace. Use this to feel your form shift as you accelerate and maintain control of your form. Do 3 or 4 reps with full rest in between.

S4       200M Reps: 200M (200M). Do as many as fit your plan. Typically 5-12.


Drill Sets

D1       High Knees 25M, Butt Kicks 25M, High Knee Skip 25M, Lunge Short Step X10, Lunge Long StepX10

D2       High Knees 25M, High Knee Strides 50M, Butt Kicks 25M, Butt Kick Strides 50M, High Knee Skip 25M, Lunge Short step X10, Lunge Long StepX10

D3       High Knees Alt Speed 50M, Butt Kicks Alt Speed 50M, High Knee Skip 25M

D4       Karaoke 50M, Zombie Strides 50M, High Knee Strides 100M, Butt Kick Strides 100M. Do each one at least X2. Great advanced form and coordination set!

D5       High Knees 25M, Butt Kicks 25M, High Knee Skip 25M, Lunge Short Step X10, Lunge Long StepX10, One foot hops 25M, Bounding 50M, Two foot Hops 25M

Depending on your goals or experience level, what you select will be different. It is not a bad thing to have consecutive days of speed, just don’t do consecutive hard days. Depending on your training phase, work some speed in at least once a week and up to three times a week. These are just some examples. Make your own sets of drills and speed based on your training and your schedule.


Monday: D1, Tuesday: D3 + S2, Friday: D4

Tuesday: D1 + S4, Thursday: D4


Speed Workshop Notes

Here are the hand out sheets from the Speed Workshop:

Top Secret Speed


Coach Dan’s story:

First race in 1979. Many Coaches, hundreds of races, read dozens of books, talked to lot’s of runners, and I’m still learning.


What I mean by coaching yourself:

Gather advice from various sources and apply them to YOUR life and goals. Recruit friends to hold you accountable and encourage you. My coach is Joe Burgasser. I also have a group of running friends who periodically review my training and offer advice. Ultimately, I pull the advice from all sources and make it work for me.


Why Speed is important:

  • Form- Improves running form
  • Frame of Mind- If your top speed is faster, your 5K pace feels easier
  • Fun! We all know it’s more fun to run fast
  • Physics and Physiology-
    • Principal of specificity- range of motion: bicep curl example
    • Fast twitch / slow twitch muscle fibers
    • Aerobic / Anaerobic : Working on Anaerobic today

When to work speed into your schedule: (Can’t cover phases of training in full but come  Aug 27th for the full plan)

  • Base Phase- Full sets of drills and strides 2-3 time per week
  • Preseason / in Season- Smaller sets of drills 2 time per week
  • Race Phase-  Smaller sets of drills 1 or 2 times per week

How much?

  • Less than 5% of your total mileage should be drills and strides. Start at 2% and build up.
  • For example, a runner doing 40 miles per week and adding 3 times a week of drills and strides:
    • High Knees (100 M) + Butt Kicks (100 M) + High Knee Skips (100 M) + HK Strides (100 M) + BK Strides (100M) = 500 M
    • 500M X 3 days= 1500 M or almost one mile = 2.3% of total mileage
    • This is just a basic guideline to get you started. You might want to do a bit over or under the 5% mark depending on your other training. The idea is that the Speed Drill portion of your weekly running is rather small.

Form Notes

  • 180 steps per minute- A guideline, not an exact #.
  • Heel Float, knee drive- Why?
  • Center of gravity
  • Test your range of motion- prevent injury, help when returning from an injury


What to do- Always use forward motion!

  • High Knees
  • Butt Kicks
  • High Knee Skips
  • Hops / jumps
  • Lunges – short and long
  • HK Strides / BK Strides
  • Sprints, 100s, 200s, 300s