The Power of Agility Training for Runners

Jennifer Purdie
by Jennifer Purdie
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The Power of Agility Training for Runners

Endurance athletes spend most of their training working out in one plane and performing repetitive motions. To keep the body stabilized, improve coordination and maintain control, athletes need to incorporate workouts into their training schedule that use all planes of motion. Enter agility training.

“Agility training is doing short bursts of highly coordinated movements to make these movements as sharp as possible,” says Sanjeev Joseph, of FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Center in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. Basically, it finesses an athlete’s ability to change directions without losing speed or balance. “This is extremely useful for endurance athletes because the more efficient they are in their movements, the more output they are able to gain over a period of time.”

Not only does agility training make athletes more effective in their respective sports, but it quite literally keeps them young, according to Chelsea Potter, a personal trainer at Solace New York in New York City, New York. “Helping improve body movement and body awareness SARQ (speed, agility, reactivity and quickness) allows for the body to become more dynamic, which results in heightened reactiveness to stimulants, enhanced natural reflexes and overall balance,” she says. Potter also believes agility training promotes long-term health and prevents damage, as too much of one movement can cause an excessive fatiguing of one muscle group. “The variability in agility strengthens your muscles, while minimizing the chance for injury,” she says.


Like any form of training, however, athletes need to avoid overdoing agility workouts, as this can result in a reverse effect. “Due to the highly intense nature of agility training, if you push the body to the limits, you can only sustain these movements a few times before the muscles’ capacities have been exceeded,” says Joseph. He suggests: 

  1. Plan and prepare ahead of the agility training. This gives athletes a better idea of what they plan on executing and limits the errors in movement.
  2. Use adequate rest periods between sets and exercise sessions. The body needs breaks to allow the muscles to recover and repair after agility training. If they are doing it too quickly, the muscles may not respond well, and athletes risk injury.
  3. Use variations to improve neuromuscular response or reflexes. Avoid doing the same movement patterns. By using variations, athletes allow their neuromuscular system to constantly monitor and adjust to the changing variables. (This is called adaptation, and is what sets elite athletes apart from the good ones.)

For those interested in starting an agility training program, Potter provides an introductory interval circuit. It should take 40 minutes total.

Every 2 minutes on the minute
Repeat  3 times: 12–24 minutes

  • 0-2 minutes: Run 400 meters as fast as possible, then rest. If you can’t complete 400 meters in less than 1 minute, 50 seconds, shorten the distance.
  • 2-4 minutes: 20 burpees
  • Rest 2 minutes

Every 90 seconds on the minute
Repeat 4 times: 20–26 minutes

  • 0–1:30 minutes: Run 300 meters as fast as possible, then rest. If you can’t complete 300 meters in 1:20 seconds, shorten the distance.
  • 1:30–3 minutes: 15 burpee tuck jumps
  • Rest 2 minutes

Every 1 minute on the minute
Repeat 3 times: 12 minutes

  • Minute 1: Run 150 meters, rest the remainder of the minute
  • Minute 2: 12 burpee tuck jumps
  • Minute 3: 20 gallops (Place your hands on the floor, hop your feet to your hands, then move your hands forward.)
  • Minute 4: 25 squat jumps

If you can’t complete any of the total repetitions in 50 seconds, decrease the amount.


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About the Author

Jennifer Purdie
Jennifer Purdie

Jennifer is a Southern California-based freelance writer who covers topics such as health, fitness, lifestyle and travel for both national and regional publications. She runs marathons across the world and is an Ironman finisher. She is also a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. You can follow her on Twitter @jenpurdie.


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