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Circuit Training for Runners and Athletes
Improve your mobility, strength and stamina

Exercises for your whole body to enhance speed and endurance

Circuit training is an excellent way for runners to simultaneously improve mobility, strength and stamina. The circuit training format utilizes a group of 6 to 10 strength exercises that are completed one exercise after another. Each exercise is performed for a specified number of repetitions or for a prescribed time period before moving on to the next exercise.

The exercises within each circuit are separated by brief, timed rest intervals, and each circuit is separated by a longer rest period. The total number of circuits performed during a runners training session may vary from two to six depending on your training level (beginner, intermediate or advanced), your period of training (preparation or competition) and your training objective.

Planning on your Fitness Holiday

Identify the possible exercises that can be performed with the available equipment. Then identify on paper 3 or 4 circuits of 6 to 10 exercise. In each circuit try to ensure that no two consecutive exercises are in the same muscle group. For example, do not have press ups followed by pull ups. A circuit should be set up so that you work each body part as follows

Total body
Upper body
Lower body
Core and trunk, etc

It is important to warm up with easy jogging and stretching exercises and to repeat this as a cool down after the session.

The following are examples of exercises that runners can used in a session:

Upper body Press ups, bench dips, pull ups, bench lift, inclined press up.
Core and trunk Sit ups (lower abdominals), stomach crunch (upper abdominals), back extension chest raise.
Lower body Squat jumps, astride jumps, step ups, shuttle runs, bench squat.
Total body Treadmills, squat thrusts, skipping.

Example Sessions

Six Exercises

Treadmills, press ups, squat jumps (forward astride), sit ups (bent knees feet on the ground), squat thrusts, bench dips.

Eight Exercises

Treadmills, press ups, squat jumps (forward astride), sit ups (bent knees feet on the ground), squat thrusts, bench dips, shuttle runs, back extension chest raise.


25 to 30 seconds work on each exercise with a rest that matches the work period.
3 to 5 sets with a 2 or 3 minute recovery between each set.

The duration can be based on time repetitions of the exercise, what the runner can complete in say, 60 seconds of 100% effort.

If training is based on the number of repetitions then regular testing may be necessary to determine the maximum number of repetitions that can be completed in 60 seconds for each exercise.

Training can be based on a eight week cycle comprising of an easy week, then a hard week. The work load can be varied by changing the number of exercises, duration, sets or repetitions.

Example basic programme

Identify a circuit of 8 exercises so that you work each body part as follows.

  Exercise Circuit  
Week Work   Rest Number Rest
1 20 seconds Easy 20 seconds 2 2 minutes
2 30 seconds Harder 30 seconds 2 2 minutes
3 20 seconds Easy 20 seconds 3 2 minutes
4 40 seconds Hard 40 seconds 3 2 minutes
5 30 seconds Easy 30 seconds 4 3 minutes
6 40 seconds Hard 40 seconds 3 2 minutes

Complete the session every other day with at least 24 hours between each session.

The session may be based upon using the same or different muscle groups each time. If you use the same muscle groups on every session, then you should train every other day. However if you train different muscle groups at a session, then you can train more often.

Another way of training every day and not placing to much effort on your body, is to train different muscles on alternate days. This is similar to an athlete training for a middle distance race. Although many train every day, the muscles trained on any one day will be different. Thus one day speed work, next a tempo run, then rest and then hills. All these sessions train different muscles and thus an athlete can train most days.

If you become tired, don't hesitate to take a day off. It is what ever training suits you that is the best for you. We are all different, but have the same goals - all athletes want to be as fast as possible, many just wishing to better their best time.


Develops strength and endurance.
Can be adjusted to suit your age, fitness and health.
Exercises are simple enough to give you feel a sense of achievement.
Exercises which suit most sports.


Many exercises require specialised gym equipment, bringing health and safety issues.

Read our Running Programme for Beginners...

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