Sharpen Your Kick

The most shocking thing about US track star Galen Rupp’s silver medal in the Olympic 10,000m last year was how he won it. Rupp had a reputation for not finishing strong, but in London, his ferocious speed in the final lap carried him past all but one of the world’s top distance runners (his training partner, the UK’s Mo Farah). Conventional wisdom says that fast finishers are born, not made – but Rupp and his coach, Alberto Salazar, proved otherwise. Here’s how you, too, can sharpen your kick.

Since 1921, nearly every male who set a 5000m and 10,000m world record accelerated in the last kilometre. The pattern is evidence that the brain withholds some energy during a race, releasing it when you’re about to stop. To develop a stronger finish, you need to train your brain to release those reserves earlier. Gear-change workouts teach you to accelerate when you’re tired, and ingrain the habit of a sustained finishing kick. Schedule one of these four weeks out and another two weeks out from a goal race.
The Workout: Run 4 x 800m with three to four minutes of rest between efforts. Start each repeat at 5K pace; in the first one, accelerate after 700m and go all-out to the finish. In the second effort, accelerate after 600m; in the third, after 500m; in the final repeat, go as hard as you can after 400m.

Salazar told British reporters that Farah’s weakness when he joined the training group was a lack of muscular strength. When he tried to sprint at the end of races, his form fell apart and his arms flailed. The solution: 3.5 hours of work in the gym each week.
The Workout: Once a week, complete a full-body circuit that includes the following: Squats Do three sets of 10; gradually incorporate single-leg squats and work up to three sets of 10 on each leg. Push-ups Perform one set to failure, rest for two minutes, then do another set. Squat jumps Crouch down, then leap powerfully as high as you can 10 times.

Just days before the Olympic final, Rupp did a workout that reportedly included a 100m sprint in 11.0 seconds. Even with a running start, that sort of sizzling turnover is almost unheard of for a long-distance runner, and it’s the type of speed training many of his competitors neglect. Short, all-out bursts improve how messages are carried from the brain to the muscles, so more fibres contract with greater force when your mind says, Sprint!
The Workout: Once a week after an easy run, find a hill that takes you about 10 seconds to climb. Sprint up it, going all-out. Walk down, and recover for two minutes. Start with three repeats, and work up to eight.


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