How Does an Olympic Runner Train?


There is no better way to summarize an Olympic runner's training plan than to go straight to the source: the runners themselves. Training programs are dictated by the runner's distance of specialty, and Olympic running specialties can be best broken down into sprinting, short-distance running, middle-distance running and marathon running.

Sprinter Allyson Felix

  • Allyson Felix won the silver medal in the 200-meter race of the 2004 Olympics. Her secret to speed and explosion is lifting heavy weights in small repetitions. Olympic lifts, such as deadlifts, power cleans, clean and jerks and squats are integral weight lifting exercises in Felix's routine, in addition to her running and form exercises. Felix notes that the most drastic change in her speed came from adding heavier lifting to her daily routine of sprints and abdominal exercises.

Short-distance runner Brandon Johnson

  • Brandon Johnson is a 2013 World Outdoor Championships qualifier in the 800-meter race. Johnson credits long distance runs of 45 to 50 minutes to prepare him for his half-mile race. In addition to occasional long runs, he will do short distance repeats of 200 meters with less rest and high repetitions to hone his cardiovascular capabilities and fine tune his fast-twitch muscles.

Mid-distance runner Lauren Fleshman

  • Lauren Fleshman is a six-time World Championship Team USA member, who led the team to a bronze medal at the World Cross-Country Championships and specializes in mid-distance running. Fleshman emphasizes running 25 to 35 miles per week, aiming for the higher end of that range at the competitive level. In addition to consistent mileage, she emphasizes getting enough sleep each night of the week to avoid missing out on the benefits of training. Lastly, Fleshman relies on a strong mentality, sharing the mantra she repeats to herself on her personal blog: "I LOVE to compete. I LOVE how I can tolerate pain. I am strong and tough and freaking awesome."

Marathoner Ryan Hall

  • Ryan Hall won the 2008 USA Marathon time-trial and went on to place 10th in the Olympics in Bejing. He also holds the U.S. record in the half-marathon distance. Hall breaks his training programs into seven week segments, resting the seventh week and then revving up again. While he will start a marathon training program running once a day, he builds up to running twice daily, an hour in the morning and a half hour to an hour in the afternoon. Hall emphasizes addressing the concept of pain in training, by teaching the mind to not overthink pain and simply take one step at a time.

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