Johnny Gregorek has had an astronomical rise to the top levels of track and field. He graduated high school with a PR of 4:15 in the mile and now, 10 years later, he has become the second American ever to go sub 3:50 indoors for the mile with a time of 3:49. In 2017 he was the only American male to make it to the finals of the World Championship in the 1500m. Gregorek is sponsored by Asics and runs for the NJNY Track Club, based out of Sleepy Hollow, NY.
I have compiled and analyzed Gregorek’s training for the 3 months leading up to his 3:49 run. I have outlined the major points of his buildup in the post, but if you are looking for his day to day schedule, then it can be found in the presentation directly below or on his Running2Win page.gregorek-1
Gregorek averaged 74 miles a week during the entire 3-month buildup and peaked at 85 miles. He was consistent with his mileage throughout each training block and was usually in the 70-80 range. This amount of mileage is typical for professional 1500m runners. The NJNY team has a strong stable of milers in their roster, and they all seem to run around this range. However, the mileage usually drops during the heavy racing season by 5-10 or more miles per week. In Gregorek’s case, he did not reduce his mileage heavily until the final two weeks of the indoor season, when he was peaking for USA Championships and BU, where he ran 3:49.
Block 1 – Strength (December 3rd – January 6th):
The first block of training was strength oriented. Many of his workouts were centered around developing his aerobic capabilities. This type of training included consistent tempo runs and long intervals. His interval workouts were usually 800m-1000m repetitions at approximately 5k pace. Almost all of his strength workouts involved multiple paces. Even when he did longer interval workouts, he would end them with 200s – 400s at mile pace or faster to maintain his leg speed and turnover.
Block 2 – Quality (January 7th – February 3rd):
The second block of training was his most demanding and diverse. The density of quality sessions was high, usually three times a week if not four. During this time, he included every type of workout in his training. When he had four quality days, his workouts would be a tempo run, long intervals at 5k pace, a mile paced workout or a race, and a long run. He built upon the strength that he developed from the first block and then introduced high-quality workouts and one race. Gregorek did not suddenly switch to doing high amounts of speed work and neglect the strength-based workouts that he did during the previous month. Instead, he maintained the same amount of strength days and added speed on top of it. This block was one of his most crucial times during his buildup and was critical to his success during his competition period.
Block 3 – Competition (February 4th – March 3rd):
Gregorek did not race often during his indoor campaign, only four times total. His first race was a 1000m in the Armory. It served as an under-distance effort to build speed and set up the rest of the season, where he only raced the mile. His three other races were the Millrose Games, USA Championships, and the Bruce Lehane Invitational at BU. In the four weeks from February 4th to March 3rd, Gregorek raced every week except for one. As such, the high-quality race simulation workouts that were prevalent during the second block were reduced in favor of the races themselves, which served a similar purpose. Gregorek maintained the long interval workouts but cut out tempo runs entirely. He continued to do a long run every week until he peaked during the last two weeks at USAs and BU. Most of his mile specific workouts were light tune-ups before his races.
Altitude (or lack thereof) and Training Environment:
A unique piece of NJNY’s training is that the team chooses to not train at altitude at any point during the year. Many other elite groups are either based at altitude or relocate to high elevation training camps for at least a portion of the winter. For instance, NOP frequently trains in Park City, Utah, for short periods when not racing. Additionally, St. Moritz in Switzerland is a popular choice during the summer for many athletes so that they can train at high altitude while still racing on the European circuit. However, NJNY spends a month in Tallahassee, Florida, during the winter to train. While this seems to be an odd choice, it has proven to be successful on multiple occasions. The training environment in Tallahassee is fantastic during the winter because of its great weather and trails. Considering that the group is based out of New York, winters can be harsh and escaping to beautiful weather that is perfect for training, is ideal. Additionally, the location is abundant with clay roads and soft surfaces to run on. In 2019 Gregorek was in Florida from January 9th to February 7th before returning to New York to begin racing.
Distance Run Pace:
The NJNY team does not run fast on their distance runs, at least compared to their fitness level. Gregorek rarely includes the pace of his regular runs during his training, but when he does, they are usually above 7 minute pace. This pace is consistent with what can found on Kyle Merber’s Strava page where most of his distance runs are around 7 minute pace as well. However, during the second block of training, there appears to be an emphasis on the pace of the long run. His long runs are usually around a 6:12-6:24 average pace per mile.
Gregorek backed off his mileage aggressively during his peak. He dropped his mileage to 60 mpw during the weeks of the U.S. championships and BU. He continued to maintain 3 quality days per week, but the intensity of his workouts also decreased, usually because he was racing on the weekends.
The Priority of Training Components During Each Block:
- VO2 Max
- Mile Pace
- VO2 Max
- Mile Pace/Racing
- Mile Pace/Racing
- VO2 Max
What We Learned:
Most of Gregorek’s workouts cut down in volume as they progressed. Perfect examples of this are his speed workouts when he ran mile pace or faster. They often started at 1000m or 800m intervals, which is a lot for mile pace, and then cut down in the distance by 200 meters each rep while either maintaining the same speed or going faster. Additionally, he was given a large amount of rest during these workouts. Because of the long rest, Gregorek was able to run a sizeable chunk of volume at mile pace or faster during a single workout.
What is apparent in Gregorek’s training is the importance of aerobic strength for a miler. While Gregorek is fast over 800 with a 1:47 pr, he is still the type of runner that benefits from developing his aerobic capabilities rather than only training speed. He maintained long intervals of 800m-1000m at around 5k pace throughout the entire buildup. During blocks 1 and 2, there was also a heavy emphasis on threshold running before being cut out entirely in block 3 when he started racing often. While his speed workouts were his most impressive, they only made up a small fraction of his training.
How to implement into your training:
If you’re training for a mile or 1500m and are looking towards Johnny Gregorek for inspiration, then there are a few things that you should keep in mind.
- Do not underestimate the importance of strength workouts. They are by no means the most exciting sessions, but they are critical to success.
- Racing serves as a high-quality session. Ask yourself if it is necessary to include a speed workout during the week of a race if you are already going to get the same stimulus from racing.
- Cut down the number of tempos during your racing season.
- Altitude is not always necessary for success. Sometimes, you need to simply be in a more focused training environment.