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Oregon Circuits - Big bang for your running buck!

Taking their name from the University of Oregon where they were apparently first conceived, these sessions entail a measured balance of tempo running combined with targeted strength exercises. The benefits are multiple, as I will discuss shortly.

Not least in that you quickly begin to replicate the ‘heavy legs’ feeling we’re all familiar with that normally hits late-on in a race.

Essentially the sessions take a format similar to an interval session.

The most important coaching point in terms of pace and effort is that while the runs should be at ‘race pace’, these should feel like the recovery in terms of effort from the challenging nature of the exercises.

If the exercises feel restful compared to the running, you’re doing it wrong!

Note: ‘Race pace’ is a very individual concept… this isn’t a session to compare yourself against others around you – pacing is important!

Example Oregon Circuit Session:

4 x 8min blocks of work (2mins recovery)

  • Warm-Up

  • Block 1 (8mins no-rest): – Sumo Squats x 20 – Run 300m @ race pace – Plank Jacks x 20 – Run 300m @ race pace – Repeat…

  • 2min Walking Recovery

  • Block 2 (8mins no-rest): – Lateral Lunge x 15 each leg – Run 300m @ race pace – Mountain Climber Press-Up x 12 each leg – Run 300m @ race pace – Repeat…

  • 2min Walking Recovery

  • Block 3 (8mins no-rest): – High Step-Up x 15 each leg – Run 300m @ race pace – Single Leg Deadlift x 15 each leg – Run 300m @ race pace – Repeat…

  • 2min Walking Recovery

  • Block 4 (8mins no-rest): – Single Leg Glute Bridge x 15 each leg – Run 300m @ race pace – 4-point Donkey Kicks x 15 each leg – Run 300m @ race pace – Repeat…

  • Cool Down


As I alluded to earlier, there is method to the madness.

Running Strength-Endurance

These sessions are intense and should be performed once a week at most, but I’m yet to find another running workout that builds strength-endurance and resilience as effectively, not even hill reps, another favourite workout of mine.

As with all sessions, the outcome will depend on the reasoning used to structure the session. If we set out just to smash ourselves with the hardest combination of exercises we can think of, then we won’t get the most from the session! Instead, we choose specific exercises to target key running muscle groups, prime movers, stabilisers and core muscles all included. As fatigue kicks-in don’t compromise technique.

Running Technique – Fatigued

This for me is the biggest benefit of these sessions, with the correct running technique cues in mind, every run rep can be very focused on technique. Not only this but with well-chosen strength exercises, you get a degree of transfer of muscle activation between the exercise and the run rep.

For example: If we know we have a runner with poor Glute Med function during running gait, we can set an exercise such as resistance band crab walks in between run reps, to achieve a pre-activation in Glute Med then immediately run a short technique focused rep to help fine-tune the firing pattern within running gait.

I often explain this to the athletes as “firstly getting the muscle working effectively, then show it the running movement pattern… and repeat”. Ask me to show you the science and I’ll struggle, but it certainly seems to consistently work really well 🙂

There is also the benefit of running at race pace, pre-fatigued by the exercises in bursts short enough to focus on form. This makes for a great session to practice maintaining form on heavy legs. Triathletes will understand what I mean when I call these workouts “brick sessions without the bike”!

Race Preparation

A number of athletes have commented on the similarity in feeling to the heavy legs experienced towards the end of some races. These sessions are very effective in replicating this type of situation, and building strength to maintain form into such fatigue.

Integrating strength work into a training program has well-documented benefits both in terms of injury prevention and performance.

Give these workouts a go - no more than once a week maximum!

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