For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
This run workout, from Olympian triathlete and coach Ryan Bolton, is simple yet effective at helping improve your run form and fitness without overly taxing any of your energy systems. It first appeared in this article for Active Pass members, The Guide to Becoming a Better Runner.
Bolton has more than 25 years’ coaching experience and is now uniquely positioned as a coach to both elite runners—he heads up The Harambee Project and coached Caroline Rotich to her 2015 Boston Marathon title—as well as elite triathletes, such as Ben Hoffman, Sam Long, and Heather Jackson. He’s also the High Performance Technical Advisor to USA Triathlon and co-author of The Triathlete Guide to Sprint and Olympic Triathlon Racing. He knows only too well that improvements in running come from a consistent and smart approach to training—lessons that are there for anyone to learn. You don’t have to be a sub-three hour marathoner or a pro triathlete to be a smarter and better runner.
Get Neuro First
“There are a lot of factors to consider when we talk about how to improve our running—and training is only one of them,” Bolton said. “The first thing that comes to mind for me is that triathletes tend to lack the neuromuscular work needed to make gains in their running. It’s not just a case of running more or running faster—sure, increasing volume and speedwork can (and likely) will help—but neuromuscular work is the smarter and more efficient way to get there.”
According to Bolton, this doesn’t need to be complicated and can be done on a weekly basis by adding strides or sprints to the end of an aerobic run. Strides are shorter accelerations of about 20 seconds, ideally on grass or a soft surface. Sprints should be 100m to 200m in length, building the effort on each one and with lots of recovery in between. “You want to be totally fresh for each one and hold your very best form,” he said. “Imagine you’re running down the finish chute at Kona, looking fantastic—that’s the kind of form we want to see.”
He added: “Your focus is holding perfect form throughout your 20-second strides, accelerate and hold your one-mile race pace. Walk or stand to recover for 90 seconds between each stride—don’t start your next stride until your heart rate and breathing have come down some.”
One-Hour Workout: Neuromuscular Run
35 mins. of running at zone 1 (see box below) or RPE 6-7/10
Strides: 8 x 20 sec. strides on grass or a soft surface. Walk or stand to recover for 90 sec. between each stride.
Tip: Count your right foot strikes during each stride. A good goal is 30 strikes for each 20-second stride.
5 mins. easy relaxed jogging
Coach Ryan’s Zone References
Zone >> System >> Max Heart Rate
Zone 1 >> Aerobic Recovery >> Under 74%
Zone 2 >> Endurance >> 74-79%
Zone 3 >> Intensive Endurance >> 80-83%
Zone 4 >> Sub-Threshold >> 84-89%
Zone 5 >>
A – Threshold – 90-93%
B – Anaerobic Endurance 94-97%
C – Power 98-100%