Not quite feeling fresh enough to run a hard workout? Not quite tired enough for a slow recovery run? I introduce to you to the Kenyan Diagonals Workout. It’s a staple in the Kenyan distance running community: on those in-between days, it helps promote quick turnover, leg speed & strength, running economy—while still not taxing the aerobic system too tremendously.
What exactly is it?
Quite simply: strides with a jog recovery. You stride the diagonals of a field—85% effort—and then slow jog the straights. Repeat for 30-40 minutes.
Where should I run the workout?
You should aim to run it on a soccer/football field, American football field, the infield of a grass track, or just any flat, relatively soft field that is easy for you to get to. Obviously, the larger the field, the longer you’ll be sprinting, so I would recommend choosing according to how you’re feeling on the day.
How do I do it?
Simple: First, do a nice 15-20 minute warmup jog followed, perhaps, with some light dynamic stretches. Then jump into it! Remember to start off slow and progressively get faster. You could start around 1/2 marathon pace for the diagonals and then gradually cut down to 2km race pace by the end of it. Anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour would be perfect. Usually, I’ll do 40 minutes to make the whole session last around an hour.
What does this workout help me improve?
Typically, the purpose of the Kenyan diagonals workout is to improve running economy while still allowing the body to recover from a previous workout. So, make sure you aren’t redlining this and going into serious oxygen debt. It should be less strenuous than a tempo effort, but perhaps a little more snappy than a steady run. The fast running can be done around 2km-5km race-pace effort, and the recovery along the straights should be slow to help ensure that the fast running can be consistent.
That being said, you could easily turn this into an intervals/Fartlek workout simply by running a tad faster and keeping the recoveries shorter. But if that’s the case, it would make more sense to take it to a longer, straighter path so that you don’t have such an aggressive turn after 30s of sprinting.
This workout is fabulous and one of my favorites. I also think it represents Kenyan running well: running fast but controlled, starting slow and getting faster, and not being overly reliant on specific paces and splits. Enjoy! 🙂