Workout of the Day

Tommy Schmitz (orange vest, center) in familiar territory, out in front on race day.

Tommy Schmitz (orange vest, center) in familiar territory, out in front on race day.

4 x 400m / 3 x 400m / 2 x 400m Cutdowns


  • 4 x 400m Set — 58.0
  • 3 x 400m Set — 57.0
  • 2 x 400m Set — 56.0

Recoveries: 1:00 rest between reps and 4:00 rest between sets

Tommy Schmitz — May 8th, 2014


Context & Details

Tommy was the first “pro” athlete I ever coached. A funny, eccentric, lovable character, who knew how to get after it on race day. He's retired now and really into wine. Classic Tommy. 

This simple, practical 400m repeat workout was a week out from his 1,500m personal best (3:39.61) at the OXY High Performance meet, which is now called the USATF Distance Classic.

Going into the race, he had run some solid early season 1,500’s in the low 3:4x range. I knew he was ready for a breakthrough, but he wasn't convinced — yet. Normally, he wouldn’t do this much of faster work a week out from a race, but Tommy was feeling good and had expressed he'd best benefit from a “blowout” session. I settled on a design of 400’s repeats gradually getting faster, but cutting the rep volume each set as he progressed in speed. 

He started with 4x400m at race pace with one-minute rest.  Then cranked things down by just a hair to 57.0 for 3x400m. He hit the nail on the head on those. The more extended rest between sets gave him just enough time to regroup and recover, somewhat. I wanted him to experience accelerating speeds from set to set as fatigue mounted. He needed to feel "the sting" he'd be subject to in the final 400m on race day. On last two 400’s he hit the first in 56 then popped the final one in 55mid. After he finished, his spirits were high. His confidence had increased. And he couldn't wait to race a 1500m at OXY HP. He knew he was ready to break the 3:40 barrier. 

That day taught me it is essential to stop and listen to the seasoned athletes you coach, many times they know what they need better than you. Aim to work in partnership with them. Hear them out. Doing so has made me a significantly better coach. I default to airing on the side of caution with workouts. I tend to hold back, play it safe and would have only considered employing this type of session 10+ days from a target race. But Tommy had a sense of what he needed, and I had to trust that. Just as he had to trust I'd listen.

Any questions? You can send me a Direct Message on Twitter. Thank you for reading! | SM


Steve Magness