At the Mountain High Running Camp in Tallulah Falls School near Tallulah Gorge, Georgia, professional runners assemble to pass on their experiences to the athletes attending the camp. Runners like Alexis Sharangabo, a middle distance athlete from Rwanda, have spent years or even decades refining their physical shape with the best workouts that the world has to offer.
One workout that the athletes presented is a derivation of the 400 meter repeat workout that is referred to as "The Hammer." 400 meter repeats are the gold standard workot for improving speed, and they are used all over the world in applications as far apart as high schol weight training, football, and track & field. The difference between this gold standard workout and the "Hammer" is that the new workout contains a "hammer" lap that exploits and motivates the positive psychological operation of a distance runner.
While 400s are good at boosting speed, their effectiveness wears off after enough iterations of the exercise. The reason for this is simple: athletes typically run these workouts in a group setting, and after time athletes grow used to the speed of the exercise and can reach a static pattern in the practice of it (for example, getting used to coming in behind a certain athlete when that individual habitually beats them).
Runners thrive on victory. The hammer workout exploits this byassigning a given athlete a hammer lap. The hammer lap is run by that athlete at a pace significantly faster than that which has been established for the workout. For example, if the workout pace is proscribed at 67 seconds for a repeat, a hammer lap might be 57-60 seconds. Each runner is assigned a different lap; this way, each runner gets his or her own opportunity to crush the competition and run a good deal faster. This gives a psychological boost to the runner with the hammer lap and invites the opportunity to have a moment to rule and run with undisciplined speed.
Hammer laps should be assigned near the center of the workout, which means that there needs to be a large enough quantity of repeats to enable all athletes to have a hammer lap. Professionals often do as many as 25 repeats, but normal athletes may find 8 to 12 a happy medium. Done properly, the hammer workout can provide an incredible boost to the speed and confidence of an athlete.