Need Speed? A 5-Gear System to Become a Faster Runner

Greg Dea

Guest Contributor

Functional Movement Screen, Kettlebells, Physical Therapy


Being a faster runner has endless appeal to all kinds of athlete.

There isn't an athlete out there who doesn’t want to get faster. This program will get you there.


The Fourth Gear: Time to Get After It

The fourth phase is nearly identical to the third, except now you try to approach a speed above 85% of your maximum speed. If you’re unsure of your maximum speed, aim to drop 0.5 seconds from each of your split times from the last phase as a rough guide.



When to Go Up a Gear:

You’re now fully in a sprinting pattern but not completely putting your foot down. At this level of speed and subsequent stress to your body, change the frequency to a one-day-on, two-days-off approach. As for the previous phase, you stay in this phase if you can’t complete twenty-four runs whilst staying within your timed range for the middle zone in the interval. You can keep your cyclic aerobic and strength training going if applicable on your days off.


The Fifth Gear: Flooring It and Braking Hard

In this final bout of speed training, I recommend using a similar approach of acceleration-hold-deceleration. It’s this pattern that carries over well to sport, with deceleration mechanics coming into play.


You’ll only need a space of up to 70 metres maximum. You will use a similar session outlay as in the third and fourth steps, with the same recovery and rest protocol, but with the following changes in distances:



  • (20m-30m-20m) x 6
  • (10m-30m-10m) x 6
  • (5m-20m-5m) x 6
  • (10m-40m-10m) x 6


You’ll see that the middle zone is similar to before and between 20 to 40 metres. Take your best time for each of the 20 to 40 metre zones from the fourth stage and use it as a target range for this final phase. You will have completed this phase if you can stay within 0.2 seconds of your best time for each zone on each run.


Cycle Through the Gears

It’s common for athletes to plateau with extended speed training. This means your nervous system needs a rest. If you find yourself losing speed or unable to complete a phase as recommended in the final stage, drop back two stages for one week, then move up to the next phase for the next week until you return to the stage your were previously struggling with. Use a cyclic approach to balance your stimulus and recovery and get the most out of this program.


I’ve used this simple repeat sprinting program for many athletes for years, with only a few subtle variations as required. Its progressive nature has proved very forgiving for athletes in pre-season training and returning from injury. Whilst the program is clearly challenging, most of my guys who’ve done it have told me that they don’t feel like they’re doing enough.


I recall one Australian footballer telling me he was concerned that when he returned to the main squad for the season he would be undertrained. He needn’t have worried. He ran far quicker and longer than others who had done infinitely more volume at God-knows-what intensity. I’ve used it for my own development and had no trouble going from a football season to a half marathon without no specific training. Trust this program. It works.


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Photo 1 courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Photo 2 courtesy of CrossFit.

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