How do Sprint Diagonal sessions actually work?

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Want to get started with one of Jessica Ennis-Hill's outdoor fitness coaching runs, Outdoor Body Blasts (OBB)? Here’s everything you need to know about nailing Sprint Diagonals

The Jennis Fitness circuits in the app form the core of your programme, but if you want to inject some outdoor variety into your week, and you want a session that gets you fit fast, it’s time to try out the Sprint Diagonal. This is a cracking interval run made famous by Kenyan sprinters, who practice these for 30 minutes at a time at their training ground in the Rift Valley.

You don’t need any equipment or a timer, you just need a local football pitch to use as a marker.

Jessica Ennis-Hill and her coach Toni Minichiello are big fans of this one, which is why we've adapted it for you here.

What’s a Sprint Diagonal anyway?

It’s a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) running drill performed on a football field, which uses the pitch markings for distance. You start in one corner of the pitch, and slowly jog the width, across the goal-lines. Next, turn and sprint diagonally to the opposite corner of the pitch, going as fast as you can. Once you’ve reached the corner, slow down and jog back along the width again. And repeat, creating a virtual criss-cross pattern across the pitch.

Sprint Diagonals can improve your heart and lung health, and boost calorie burn, while also improving your running speed

How does it help?

Sprint diagonals have all the benefits of any sprint HIIT, so they can improve heart and lung health, and boost calorie burn, while also improving your running speed. Running on a grass pitch also helps protect your joints.

Can you walk the widths of the pitch if you are struggling?

In an ideal world, you’d gently jog the widths to make them more of a workout. But if you’re really struggling, and need more of a break, walking is good, too. A 2014 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness reported that active rest – which includes walking as well as jogging – is more effective at clearing lactate, a waste produced during intense exercise, from the blood.

The Sprint Diagonal sessions in detail

BEGINNER

2 x sets of 4, with a rest period after each

Warm up by jogging slowly round the pitch or walking briskly, depending on how you feel. Hopefully you'll feel ready for the harder effort, but if you still feel tight, go again.

Set 1

- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally

Rest period: walk / gentle jog around the whole pitch once

Set 2

- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally

Recovery cool down: walk / gentle jog around the whole pitch once

INTERMEDIATE

2 x sets of 6, with a rest period after each

Warm up by jogging slowly round the pitch or walking briskly, depending on how you feel. Hopefully you'll feel ready for the harder effort, but if you still feel tight, go again.

Set 1

- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally

Rest period: walk / gentle jog around the whole pitch once

Set 2

- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally

Recovery cool down: walk / gentle jog around the whole pitch once

You don’t need any equipment or a timer – just a football pitch to use as a marker

ADVANCED

3 x sets of 6, with a rest period after each

Warm up by jogging slowly round the pitch or walking briskly, depending on how you feel. Hopefully you'll feel ready for the harder effort, but if you still feel tight, go again.

Set 1

- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally

Rest period: walk / gentle jog around the whole pitch once

Set 2

- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally

Rest period: walk / gentle jog around the whole pitch once

Set 3 

- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally- Jog width of the pitch, followed by sprint from one corner of the pitch to another, diagonally

Recovery cool down: walk / gentle jog around the whole pitch once

After your workout

It might sound silly but just as you would with an indoor workout, it’s important to take the time to cool down and stretch after a Sprint Diagonal. Lacking in inspo? Check out Jennis Fitness Extras on the app for some of Jessica Ennis-Hill’s cool-down moves.

Find out more about all the Outdoor Body Blasts

Find out more about Jessica Ennis-Hill's Jennis Fitness exercise app

Sign up to Jessica Ennis-Hill's Jennis Fitness app on iPhone and Android

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