One of the better workouts to get your legs ready (along with your heart and lungs) for faster-timed runs in the military is doing a mix of running pace, speed and leg calisthenics mixed with hills, steps, stairs or bleachers.
This workout has improved run times for years, and you only need to do it once a week. Although you cannot limit your run workouts to once a week, you still need to run and do other forms of cardio to see improvements in any timed running events.
This exercise starts off with a squat and toe touch 1-10 pyramid with 50-meter jogs in between, capped with a one-mile run and stretch. The pyramid is just a short jog mixed with air squats and toe touches on a 10-set warm-up progression:
Set 1: 1 squat, 1 toe touch, jog 50 meters.
Set 2: 2 squats, 2 toe touches, jog 50 meters.
Set 3: 3 squats, 3 toe touches, jog 50 meters.
Keep going up until warm or stop at set 10. Then jog a mile and stretch as needed.
First Working Set
Goal-Pace Running: Whatever your mile pace currently is for your timed runs, subtract 30-60 seconds, which will be your new goal pace. For example, if you run a seven-minute mile now (a 10:30 1.5-mile run), subtract 30-60 seconds from seven minutes, and your new goal pace will be 6:00-6:30.
For this first set of 3 x 800-meter runs, the target time to reach goal pace is in the range of 3:00-3:15. Walk 100-200 meters between each set as you rest.
Repeat three times.
Run 800 meters at goal pace.
Walk 100-200 meters.
Second Working Set
Fast-slow intervals mixed with squats.
You will accumulate 200 squats in this 10-set work set, capped with another mile of running. The goal here is to run 100 meters fast (not quite a full sprint, but faster than the goal pace), then try to catch your breath with an easy 100-meter jog. Try not to walk. After the 100/100, you owe 20 squats. If you know you cannot do 200 squats in a workout, cut the reps in half and just go for 10 sets of 10 squats between sets.
Repeat 10 times.
Run 100 meters fast.
Jog 100 meters easy.
Third Working Set
If you are not accustomed to doing long walking sets of lunges, do not start your first day with a set of 400 meters. Do 50-100 meters if you have not built up to 200-400 meters of walking lunges over a few months.
This is a favorite Navy boot camp workout run by special operations candidates. By doing walking lunges before the day starts, many of them report their run times did not get worse during the reduced activity of Navy boot camp before various special warfare or special operations selections. These work well.
Walking lunges 400 meters
If available, the fourth working set makes running a little harder by running up and down steps, hills or bleachers. If not, you can always replace it with the stair stepper machine or do step-ups on a box or bench.
Run hills, steps or bleachers for 10 minutes.
Final Cooldown Set
Squat pyramid warmup in reverse.
We also include some stretching and massaging to complete this leg and running day.
Squat reverse pyramid 10-1, with stretches in-between.
Stretch or foam roller for 10 minutes.
Give this one a try and add it to a day in the week that you have a day off or mobility day following, as it is tough and will require some recovery time.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to email@example.com.
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