- Good for introducing sprint work
- Works speed, acceleration and pacing
- Good for both individuals and groups of 2-24 runners
- Perfect for the running track
Flying 30s is the classic session for introducing and developing maximum speed.
Eight flexi-cones, ideally of four different colours.
A 90-meter length of track or path is measured out. Precise measurements are not necessary.
The 90 meters is then divided into three 30-meter lengths and cones are used to mark the start and end of each section. It's a good idea to use different coloured cones so that each section can be referenced easily.
Each athlete in the group is assigned a lane. If there are more athletes than available lanes then they can run in several waves.
The first 30-meter length is an acceleration zone. Athletes use this zone to build up to their top speed. It's important that athletes have hit top speed by the end of this zone and do not just jog to the end and then suddenly accelerate.
The middle 30-meter length is the maximum-speed zone. Athletes run at (or at least close to) top speed during this zone.
The final 30-meter length is the deceleration zone. Athletes that decelerate before the end of the zone should continue to jog to the end of the zone.
A slow walk-back recovery with an additional two minutes standing recovery should suffice between reps. It's important that athletes recover almost fully between reps or it will not be possible to run at true maximum speed or to execute good technique.
For the same reason, the total number of reps should be kept low. Also consider dividing the session into several sets, with additional recovery between sets. Longer recovery periods are an ideal time to feed back on and discuss technique with the athletes.
The number of athletes that can be accommodated depends on how many lanes are available for use on the track. Full use of all lanes on an eight-lane track will serve eight athletes perfectly. However, you can have more athletes than lanes by sending them off in several waves. Beyond three waves (i.e. a maximum of 24 runners) the session can become difficult to manage.
30 meters just happens to be the most common distance used for this session. There's nothing to stop you using 20 meters, 40 meters, or whatever takes your fancy. Do bear in mind that it's not possible to run at top speed for much longer than five or six seconds, so don't make the maximum-speed zone too long.
Although the intention of the session is to develop speed, as a variation either before the session to warm up, or afterwards for something different, the athletes can perform a drill during the central 30-meter section. So, the first 30 meters will be jogged, a drill performed for the middle 30 meters, and the final 30 meters jogged.
Some drills/exercises that will work quite well:
- Running high knees
- Walking lunge
- Heel flicks
Real World Example
There is a group of 12 athletes of mixed ability ranging from 12-16 years old and the session is taking place at an athletics track.
The athletes are organised into two mixed-ability teams of six.
The home straight of the track is used for the session. Two red flexi-cones are placed at the 100m start line: one on the line separating lanes one and two and one on the line separating lanes seven and eight. The six lanes delimited by these cones are those that will be used for the session.
A pair of green cones is placed roughly 30 meters ahead along the same lines, a pair of white cones 30 meters ahead of this, and finally a pair of yellow cones another 30 meters ahead.
The zones are described to the athletes. The 30-meter length between the red and green cones is the acceleration zone; the 30-meter length between the green cones and the white cones is the maximum-speed zone; and the final 30-meter length between the white cones and the yellow cones is the deceleration zone.
Each of the six athletes from the first group chooses a lane from two to seven and gets ready on the start in line with the red cones. Each of the six athletes from the second group lines up behind one of the athletes from the first group.
The first group begins on the group leader's command. When the slowest runner from this group enters the maximum-speed zone (between the green and white cones) the group leader instructs the second group to go.
When the athletes reach the end of the deceleration zone, they turn around and slowly walk back to the start in lanes one and eight (which are free). When everybody has walked back there is a 90-second standing recovery before the second rep.
The athletes perform four repetitions, break for five minutes to discuss technique with the coach, and then perform a further four.
Allowing for an area to the left or right of the lanes is useful for coaches to stand and observe technique.
Encourage proper use of the acceleration zone. It is quite common for athletes to jog this section and then suddenly speed up just before the maximum-speed zone.
Be very aware of other groups on the track and set up and organise the session accordingly. Make sure that athletes are clear on when they should start each rep and where they should walk back.