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A Training Tool for Distance Runners: Diagonals


One of the workouts in the 2024 Off-Season 800-3200m Training Plan includes a training item called, "diagonals". I'll explain it here since I didn't include a good description in the plans.

Like most coaches, I discovered diagonals from reading about Kenyan training. As always, I was trying to uncover a secret or two that I could implement with my high school team. Diagonals can be used in a multitude of ways, most commonly in an economy or speed-endurance development fashion, but I've read of runners using them on recovery days, ie. doing 40-50 minutes of diagonals on the grass or turf.

For my situation, I like to use them as a stand-alone workout or as some final, faster quality in a combination workout. The off-season is the perfect time for diagonals since the infield is typically free. During the actual track and field season, our turf is crawling with sprinters, jumpers and hurdlers doing their things, so having my distance kids do diagonals would be wild.

What are Diagonals?

Diagonals use a faster rhythm of running diagonally across a soccer or football infield while jogging across the end-zone to the other diagonal starting point as recovery. I like the diagonal portions to be fast and relaxed, so somewhere in that 1600/800m rhythm. Additionally, even though it's short, I don't like walking on the recovery portion. This gives the workout more of an aerobic quality, something Igloi-esque.

Why Should We Run Diagonals?

Since the distance is short (~120m or so) and the surface is soft, it's a great way to include a lot of 1600m/800m rhythm without beating up the legs. Kids also love these as they aren't timed and they can run in larger groups than they would on the track.

What You'll See in the Training Plans

Finally, here's how I've included diagonals in the 2024 Off-Season Training Plan for 800-3200m athletes. Since I like to introduce and sprinkle in race paces in the off-season, diagonals are a good way to get close to 800m efforts, rhythms and paces without having to do 150-300m reps at 800m pace.


8x200 @ Mile/Mile Goal Pace + 8xDiagonals @ 800/1600m Effort

You can use a 200m jog on the 200's to keep these honest. After the 200's are complete, the athletes can have a couple of minutes to regroup and finish with the diagonals, which will be a notch faster than the 200's they just did on the track.

This workout progresses from just 5x200 + 5xDiagonals in the first session to 10x200's + 10xDiagonals in the final session.

However you use diagonals, they are a great tool to use with your runners to break up the monotony of hills or track work in the foundational training phase- or even late season when your team is dragging and needs a little spark to get them through the week.

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