Bleed Runs


In my previous blog a few people asked about bleed runs; what they are and how I’ve used them.

Bleed runs are a very dense and intense form of intensive tempo. Why are they called bleed runs? There are multiple reasons as I see it, but the big things are the runs “bleed” together and they hurt… a lot. I’ve heard intensive tempo described as a burn that progressively bubbles up your body. Bleed runs you’re cut pretty early, never really catch your breath, and it just keeps coming until the session is over.It could also be said that there is a lot of bleed between what qualities you are training here as velocities here can make it very close to speeds seen in more full rest special endurance 2 work.

Bleed run example

In the example of the bleed run workout in the state champion taper blog (4-6×250 @ 90s rest; she did 5 with times of 37, 40, 38, 40 39). The average velocity of the runs comes to 6.44m/s. You have to remember her actual upright running in this workout is faster as that number is skewed down as she’s starting from a dead stop on each rep and has to rebuild velocity. Do the math and that is a total of 1250m and 3mins and 14s of work at basically 62s 400 pace including restarting on each rep for a girl who’s PR at the time was around 59s hand time (the day before this workout her race adjusted to 60s for a flat 400 (-3.x s for the hurdles).

Looking at the velocities this work is very close to bleeding into being split rep SE2 work (it’s close to 97% of what she would have run a flat 4 the day before this workout without hurdles and a faster pace than the actual hurdle race). Keep in mind the above detailed bleed run workout is in flats in practice and she was a girl that was generally 5% plus slower in practice than race day.

She went on to go under a minute in 400 hurdles a week later, so realistically she was in the 56x range for a flat 4 in that tapered championship meet. 7 days out from the state record, even with having to restart on each rep, she hit above 90% of lifetime PR 400 meet speeds (90% of 56x velocities) for 1250m worth of bleed runs. Again this is in practice, in flats, restarting on each rep. Hence, how there is a lot of bleed between what qualities are being trained in this workout.

When, Where, and Who?

Who are bleed runs for and where do they belong in a program? I can only speak from my experiences, but bleed runs require the athlete have a solid background of executing quality intensive tempo in higher rep or volume scenarios (8×200 @ 2mins and 80-85% for an example) and some actual SE2 work and or races. I don’t believe in doing discoordinated work even if fatigue is high. I believe in quite the opposite. When fatigue mounts is one of the best times to learn to execute and teach the mechanics and skills that are essential for finishing races. Learning how to relax, keep posture and run through fatigue is one of the most valuable skills in the long sprints. You’re not trying to blow kids up in workouts like this, but have them perform well in an extremely physiologically demanding environment. This is a run through it workout and in doing that you develop the physiology and coordinative skills to do so.

Whether Special Endurance 2 work or bleed runs are a better training fit is an interesting question. I usually do both as a continuous SE2 run with full rest and split rep work that bleeds together are different physiological and neuromuscular tasks. With higher level high schoolers I put SE2 work in the same microcycle with the bleed runs. The bleeds being my intensive tempo variant in that training phase. It’s not something that has to be in a program, but is definitely a great option late in the season or year for maxing out the conditioning for special endurance for the 4, 5, or if you are in a crazy state like MA the 600 indoors. I can’t speak for the super elite 400 folks, but as athletes are maxing out fitness (years of good training) I’d imagine this type of work/workout would by less useful or need to be further away from the peak competitive phase as longer rests are required to achieve the speeds necessary to approach SE2 qualities with more elite athletes.

A few other thoughts

One, other advantage of bleed runs is the brevity of the workout. In some scenarios where you can do whatever you like this isn’t as important, but being able to in less than 45 mins (30 mins to warmup, 10 mins of run including the rest, and 5 mins to grab your knees, lay on the ground, or lean against a fence after) get in that type of work can be a practical advantage. This is especially true when dealing with school schedules, facility logistics, or work schedules (Try taking 10-15+min rest multiple times between reps and trying to get in the weight room in the same day as a high school coach). The workout density can also be an advantage in a location like the northeast, as cooler weather at times can lead to overcooled athletes after long rests. I also like the way Carl Valle put it recently that at the high school level sometimes kids truly need to deplete (and learn how to). Too much and too often will lead to stagnation, but big demands within the abilities of the athlete can offer big adaptations (both physical and psychological).

I generally program in a high low format and find really hard bleed run sessions like the example described above often take an extra day to get back on the high horse if you will (Saturday session of bleeds, off Sunday, easier day tempo Monday and you likely really couldn’t torch speed again til Tuesday (Monday Accel technical motif maybe). If I decide to cut a rep (drop a rep from what the athlete has been able to complete satisfactorily before or keep the workout a tip below capacity) I can generally get back to the very high end in 48 hours.

I’m hoping this blog will spark some conversation in the forums in regards to programming of intensive tempo and special endurance work. I’d really like to hear other coaches and athletes experiences and philosophies with programming for special endurance.

Matt Gardner
As a track and field coach Matt has produced school record holders and state champions in the sprints, hurdles, jumps and middle distance events. He has coached athletes from a wide variety of sports including Professional Football, World Cup bobsleigh, Swimming, Track and Field, Olympic Weightlifting, Baseball, Tennis, and Golf. Matt has extensive experience consulting and collaborating with high level sports medicine professionals to help rehabilitate injured athletes and optimize the performances of healthy ones.