The pure speed cheat sheet

By starting a macrocycle at the extreme of speed, an athlete can start to build a "speed base."

The pure speed cheat sheet
Photo by Braden Collum / Unsplash

Next week, I'll have a full description of the importance of training pure speed and how to structure it. Here's the super short version:


Maximum speed is primarily a capacity-building tool. Hand-in-hand with maximum strength and maximum (effective) duration, building capacity should come at the beginning of a macrocycle.


Most athletes can train maximum speed with their typical training venues, but mountain runners should avoid using a flat track for fear of injury. Instead, find a gradually steepening hill between 10 and 25%.


The following protocol is adapted from Steve Magness' The Science of Running.1 Frequency can be once a week alongside maximum strength or twice a week on its own.

Week Reps & Work Incline
1 6x 8s steep
2 8x 8s steep
3 10x 8s steep
4 4x 8s moderate
5 8x 10s steep
6 5x 10s moderate
7 10x 10s steep
8 2x 8s, 2x 10s, 2x 12s moderate
Note: Recoveries between reps should be 2-3 minutes and passive...


It's the top rung of the speed ladder on the way down to race pace.

Inspired by Renato Canova2, my method uses converging periodization. Macrocycles should start by building capacity at the extremes (of speed, duration, strength, and execution) and work their way toward goal pace.

  1. The Science of Running was one of the first books that Scott Johnston suggested I read when I started training for skimo. I had come across Magness' blog before, but I assumed (from the number of typos) that he couldn't know what he was talking about. I was wrong.

  2. In 2015, I started reading Canova from obscure PDFs, his comments on the LetsRun bulletin board, and his hard-to-find book, A Scientific Approach to the Marathon. Adding to the difficulty was learning Engli-talian.