Are You Training to Run Slow?

//Are You Training to Run Slow?

Are You Training to Run Slow?

Repeat sprint ability (RSA) is a unique quality that very few athletes possess. RSA is running max-effort sprints, multiple times, with inadequate rest. RSA is predominately needed for court and field sports. Typically, these short sprints last from 4-10 seconds with a recovery time of 10-30 seconds (2). Just to give you an idea of how short of rest period this is: as a general training guideline purely for speed work, allow 1 minute rest per 10m sprinted. In 5 seconds an elite athlete has the ability to run 40-50 meters. Approximately four to five minutes would be an appropriate rest time for this sprint distance; 30 seconds is nowhere near what an athlete would need to fully recover from a maximal sprint effort.

It is important to include some training to improve single-sprint performance (e.g. ‘traditional’ sprint training and strength/power training); and some high-intensity (80-90% maximal oxygen consumption) interval training to best improve the ability to recover between sprints (1). Keep sprint days to roughly ≤300m total. With this guideline, there are many different ways you can set up RSA training days. For example:

  • 5x6x10m with 10 seconds rest between reps and 2-3 minutes in between sets (total 300m).
  • 2x5x25m with 30 seconds rest between reps and 4-5 minutes in between sets (total 250m).

Your aerobic and anaerobic systems both play a part in RSA. The best way to attack this is from both fronts. Learn how to run fast, and then run fast repeatedly. It is of little value to try to improve RSA when your reps aren’t quality (fast) reps. If you’re not running fast… you’re running slow, and there’s no use in running SLOW repeatedly.


Bishop D, Girard O, Mendez-Villanueva A. “Repeated-sprint ability – Part II: Recommendations for Training”. Sports Medicine. (2011). 41.9. 741-56.

Morin, Jean-Benoît; Dupuy, Jérémy; Samozino, Pierre. “Performance and Fatigue During Repeated Sprints: What is the Appropriate Sprint Dose?” Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. (2011) 25.7. 1918-1924.

John Grace

John Grace

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John Grace


Head Fitness Coach for the Orlando Pride. I tweet about all things sport science, coaching, training, and athlete development.
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