Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 11.29.53 AMWhen training for an upcoming race or competition I try to follow one rule above all else.  That rule is to always “leave a little something in the tank” at the end of my workouts.  This does not mean that I am not training hard for whatever is coming up, rather I am training smart.  I am very meticulous when it comes to designing my own training sessions, and most of them result in about 70-90 percent of my maximal effort.  I’ve found that this type of structure has not only made my training more effective, but my performance has improved as well.

With that said, however, I’m not against working at maximal capacity.  These are what I like to call my “All In” workouts.  These are the workouts that you dread beforehand, and hurt for a few days after—you know what I’m talking about.  The purpose of this type of training is just as much mental as it is physical.  Yes, you are pushing your body to its limits and making different energy systems adapt to training.  But, more importantly, you’re training your mind to realize what you are physically capable of doing.

Here are three of my favorite “All In” workouts:


Find a hill that has a good incline, one that will take about 30-45 seconds to sprint to the top.  The workout is pretty simple.  Sprint to the top.  Jog back to the bottom.  Repeat as many times as you can, until you can no longer truly sprint up the hill.  Then do one more set!  Remember, this is an all-out sprint, no slacking.


I like to start with half-mile sprints here.  Run at your 5k pace or faster.  You’re only running half a mile, so crank the speed up.  Rest 2-3 minutes and then repeat, trying to match or better your time.  When you can no longer maintain this time, drop down to quarter-mile sprints.  Go through the same process – sprint, rest, repeat.  Keep going as long as you can maintain the same pace.  Once you cannot match your speed/time, your workout is done.


This one is the killer workout, one that can humble even the most seasoned runner.  The workout is simple.  Choose a distance that you would consider long for you.  Maybe it’s three miles, maybe it’s 10, I’ll leave that to you.  Here’s the catch: Each mile you run has to be faster than the previous mile.  By the time you reach your final mile – however many that may be – you should be running faster than you have throughout any of the workout.  Doing this will ensure that you have “emptied the tank” by the time you’re finished.  Thank me later for this one.

Workouts like this definitely have their time and place.  I wouldn’t recommend doing these on a daily or even weekly basis.  For one, they’re mentally taxing.  Second, and probably more important for training purposes, your body needs some time to recover.  The physical demand – and sometime damage – placed on the body by these workouts warrants a day or two of rest.  With that said, their purpose, as mentioned, shouldn’t be underestimated.  Not only will they improve your physical condition, but your mental strength as well.  Give them a try, you won’t be disappointed!

Do you have a favorite “All In” workout?  If so, share it with us in the comment section!

Post contributed by Brock Jones.  Brock is Co-Owner and Head Trainer with BodyFIT, Inc. in Lexington, KY. He holds a Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Kentucky and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.  You can read more of Brock’s posts about fitness and exercise on the BodyFIT Punch Blog.