Dropdown Pace Workouts

by kevbalance Comments (0) Articles, Training

Throwback Thursday. This article comes from our July/August 2013 issue and was written by Mike Gauvin.

We use dropdown workouts throughout the training period for all race distances. Early in the training period we use dropdown workouts to progress our tempo run sessions with the date pace (or current race pace) segment making up a large portion of the workout. The target throughout the cycle is to increase the time spent at goal pace or slightly faster—to the point where nearly half of the session is spent at date race pace and half is performed at goal pace.  There is no magic in workouts but consistency and a logical progression of specific workouts do lead a runner to adaptation.

dropdown workout pullquote gauvin 9.21.14

When: Dropdown workouts are used primarily during the middle to late portion of the training period. Perform a variation of the dropdown workout every couple weeks from the midpoint of the cycle to the end of season.

Why: I am a believer in gradually exposing my runners to their desired goal paces.  Specificity of training and focusing on goal pace is an effective way to achieve desired results. Dropdown workouts also help runners focus on developing the ability to clear lactate at faster paces. Most of us spend a large part of or training cycle on performing tempo runs (for good reason they are very effective) but runners also need to teach their bodies how to clear lactate at faster paces. At lower intensities lactate production and clearance are equal, but at faster paces lactate production exceeds the clearance rate. We are not looking to produce less lactate but to teach our bodies how to use it as fuel and “clear” it more efficiently.  As the season progresses and the runner adapts to the sessions we extend the time spent at goal pace (or faster) to equal date pace.


  • Select a target race and goal time (note goal pace)
  • Determine current date pace (preferably through race effort or equivalent performance)
  • Work back from target race to create a schedule
  • Slowly introduce goal pace through the season

What: Dropdown workout for a 5k goal race (mid/late season).  The below table shows a mile dropdown workout.  It’s called such because each set consists of approximately  1 hard mile of running (1600 meters).

dropdown mile workout table mile gauvin 9.21.14

Workout Notes:

  • Run all “5k goal pace” sections of workout at the designated pace per mile, not faster. Be disciplined.
  • After you complete date pace efforts do not take inactive recovery; continue to jog 200 meters.
  • After you complete the 200m recovery, go right into the next “goal pace” effort.
    • Begin the next set after a 400m or 3 minute recovery jog.

sample dropdown workout table gauvin 9.21.14


Michael Gauvin has a Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology and coaches cross country and track and field at Ludlow High School and works with members of the Western Mass Distance Project.

To read more articles form our Jul/Aug 2013 issue, click here.


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