Workout of the Day

Nick Symmonds aka "The Bison" in full flex winning the 2015 USATF Outdoor Track & Field 800m championship, it was his 6th outdoors and final US title in the event.

Nick Symmonds aka "The Bison" in full flex winning the 2015 USATF Outdoor Track & Field 800m championship, it was his 6th outdoors and final US title in the event.

150m / 200m / 150m / 300m / 150m

Splits: 16.5 / 22.6 / 16.5 / 36.1 / 16.5

Recovery: Starting at 4:00 and increasing by 1:00 after every rep to 7:00 after the 300m rep

Nick Symmonds — May 28th, 2012


Context & Details

I didn't write or witness this workout. I've never coached Nick Symmonds. But reading about this session fundamentally changed how I prepare middle distance runners. 

Two time-Olympian Nick Symmonds published his London Olympics training log in book format in 2013 (you can download it now for free on his Run Gum website). I bought a copy. It is insightful and useful. And played a role in birthing the Workout of the Day offering you're reading now. 

His 2012 training log first showed me what true sprint work looked like in design, context, and application for the 800m man. It reinforced the necessity to sprint frequently, year-round for the middle distance athlete. Up until that point, I had only been exposed to a school of thought which champions stout and steady dosages of aerobic focused running. For the majority of my mentors (Rob Conner, Jerry Schumacher, and Alberto Salazar to name a few of the more recognizable ones) it works and they have enjoyed sustained success over decades with this approach. 

A couple of years after publishing this book, Nick signed a sponsorship deal with Brooks and was coached by my friend and coaching colleague, Danny Mackey, head coach of the Brooks Beasts TC. Nick and I have a friendly acquaintance now. And I am a fan of his efforts to advance the economics of the sport. Talking with Danny about coaching Symmonds has further evolved my thoughts on effective preparation for middle distance runners.

I've learned it is critical to run at max velocities regularly (and in appropriate volumes given the timing of the session within the seasonal calendar) and how taxing honest sprint work is on athletes. Notice this session is only 950m of total quality, but Symmonds is sprinting at 48" — 44" / 400m speeds the entire time. This is 3 — 7 seconds / 400m faster than his career best 800m pace (which is 1:42.95 he set in the Olympic final later that summer, which is rough 51.50 per 400m). Symmonds provided his remarks regarding the session:

This is a true sprint workout for me. Lots of rest, but running really fast intervals. I crossed the line after the 200m and saw 22.6 on my watch, and I didn't believe what I was seeing. I had to confirm with Coach Rowland that he had me that fast as well. This was a holiday and the pool was closing early. So I was forced to go straight to the pool for my swim rather then giving my body a couple of hours to recover first. I was EXHAUSTED the rest of the day.

The marks Nick hits in the session are truly world class (16.5 is 44.0/400m speed and 36.1 is 48.1/400m speed). I showed this workout to Alan Webb. After analyzing the spilts and recoveries, his eyes bugged out and he spouted, "Holy smokes! That. Is. Fast. I could never have hit those splits, never. Not even at my peak." If a session raises the eyebrows of the 1 Mile American Record holder, I suppose that means it is pretty darn good. 


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Jonathan Marcus