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Try diagonals — a Kenyan recovery workout

Use this workout to improve your leg speed and running economy

Given that Kenya has produced several of the top distance runners in the world, when the country’s athletes or coaches share a bit of training wisdom, runners of all levels listen up. Recently, Coach Peter Bii at the Asics Chojo Camp in Iten, Kenya, shared a recovery workout that his athletes do on a regular basis called Diagonals, which help keep their legs feeling fresh for their next workout.




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The athletes perform the workout on a soccer field, where they jog along the goal line and do strides diagonally across the field, from one corner to the opposite corner. Bii explains that the workout is meant to promote quick leg turnover, and improve leg speed, strength and running economy without taxing the aerobic system too much. The athletes will perform diagonals for the entire length of a regular run, usually 40-50 minutes.

Bii says in the video that he usually has his runners perform this workout after they’ve already done a harder workout earlier in the week. In the video, he is using the session as a final prep workout before the athletes toe the line in a race on the weekend.

“If you tell the marathoners that today we are doing 100m on the track, they won’t do it,” says Bii. “But if you say we’re doing diagonals at a bit up pace, then they won’t see what it is.”

Photos taken in Kamariny Stadium in Iten, Kenya’s town of champion marathon runners, for documentary film by Anjali Nayar supported the National Film Board of Canada called Gun Runners.

Beginners: when should you start doing speedwork?

Doing diagonals for upwards of an hour might be too much for you, but the great thing about this workout is it can easily be adapted for all experience levels. To start, you could try doing a 10- or 15-minute warmup, followed by 15 minutes of diagonals, and work your way up from there.