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The Best Track & Field Workouts for High School Distance Runners

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

We've had some incredible coaches share training tips on the Featured Program series.

The following is a collections of key workouts from these coaches that you can use with your distance and middle distance runners on the track this spring.


An element of speed training is a crucial building-block at all times during the season, even for distance runners. One of the problems coaches run into is deciding where to place speed development. A solution some coaches have found is to include speed development early in the session, or even as part of a structured dynamic warm-up.

As Coach Dave Frank noted in the Central Catholic (OR) feature, programming speed development early in the session is a very workable option for your distance runners.

"We do flying 30s every week during track season; typically 3-4 before we do some other kind of work."


If you don't schedule recovery days, they'll get scheduled for you under the guise of injury and zero running.

Coach Doug Petrick uses a concept called "Decompression Days" where the the goal is recovery, but also building important connections and relationships within the team.

In the Upper St. Clair feature, Petrick described the Decompression Day as follows:

"Easy decompression run (25-50minutes) of campus loops where all ability levels have a chance to bond. And of course, more rope stretching AIF/AIS work per Phil Wharton's routines."


Long intervals and tempo runs aren't just for Cross Country runners. Your distance athletes will thrive on a diet of threshold running in the spring. Threshold training offers balance in dense competition periods and allows maintenance of aerobic capabilities; the most important aspects of success in events lasting longer than two minutes.

But, don't just take my word for it. Check out how Coach Dennis Barker used threshold training 10 days before female 800m runner, Heather Kampf ran 2:00 in the 800m at the Prefontaine Classic.

In Saint Thomas Aquinas HS feature, Coach Justin Wrigley also uses Threshold running with his outstanding distance runners. In regard to a typical Wednesday threshold workout, he wrote, "This is usually a workout consisting primarily of threshold work but it will be paired with faster running as well, usually at the end. The MD (middle distance) group will do a lower volume of threshold work and then some 800m specific work. The LD (long distance) group will do a higher volume of threshold work and then something faster at the end, often times 200m cut-downs."


One of the areas coaches can get creative is in the faster, race-pace type training. There are a million different ways to organize reps on the track in regard to distance and recovery. One of the concepts I like to use is increasing the intensity as the workout progresses.

Coach Juris Green agrees and uses ladders with his crew at The Woodlands.

"In the spring, I am a sucker for a good ladder workout: 1600 down, 1000m down and 800m down. No matter the group I am working with, we'll hit ladders every couple of weeks. I like the pace increases and the flow of the workout going from slower to faster; it's good for wiring the mind to finish strong."


No program should be considered complete without a well-developed ancillary training system. If you don't know where to start, Boo Schexnayder, one of the world's most respected Strength and Conditioning practitioners, will give a presentation for the D-Crew on Speed & Ancillary Training for Distance Runners. (You can sign-up here- you don't want to miss it.)

Strength training, along with mobility work can increase running economy and add resistance to injury, which is an often overlooked aspect of training.

Coach Ann Vogel has used strength training with her West Liberty-Salem squads with great success.

She noted, "We are also in the weight room three days a week pre and early season and twice a week during the regular season."


The key to successful adaptation to all of these workouts is the arrangement of training within a given week- or whatever type of training cycle you adhere to.

Here's a sample of how you could put together a cycle of training that includes all of these key workouts listed above.


  • Dynamic Warm-up + 4-6xFlying 30's + Endurance Run


  • Threshold Intervals + 4-6x200m Cut-Downs


  • Decompression Run


  • Pre-Meet


  • Race or Ladder Workout (600-500-400-300-200-100)


  • Long Run


  • Off


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