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“My bottom end speed is usually pretty good, so like 200’s, 300’s, 400’s – they come around pretty quick – but that 800, 1000 kind of rep, that’s my weakness and what I tend to work on a lot.” -Matthew Centrowitz

‘Centro’ doesn’t really need a lead in. His potent finishing kick has already netted the street smart American Olympic Gold in Rio, and two World Championships minor medals; all over 1500m. We took a look over the training that has helped mould this 1500m superstar.


  • D.O.B: October 18th, 1989, Beltsville, Maryland, USA.
  • Residence: Portland
  • Coach: Alberto Salazar
  • Height: 1.75m (5 ft 9 in)
  • Weight: 60kg (133 lb)


  • Olympic 1500m Gold, Rio, 2016.
  • World Championship 1500m Silver, Moscow, 2013.
  • World Championship 1500m Bronze, Daegu, 2011.
  • World Indoor Championship 1500m Gold, Portland, 2016.
  • 2011 NCAA 1500m champion.

Personal Bests

  • 800m: 1:44.62
  • 1000m: 2:16.67
  • 1500m: 3:30.40
  • Mile: 3:50.53
  • 3000m: 8:20.09 outdoors – 7:40.74 Indoors
  • 5000m: 13:20.06

Salazar & Nike Oregon Project’s Mental Edge

Centro winning the 2016 US Olympic Trials. Photo by T&Fphoto, Randy Miyazaki

“In my eyes, it’s the best professional training group in the world.”  -Matthew Centrowitz

Centro is a core member of Alberto Salazar’s stable and he attributes the group environment to a lot of his success:

“They taught me not just what I am capable of in these workouts physically but also a lot of stuff mentally and psychologically from these guys and I think that’s a bigger piece really than a lot of these workouts and the physical preparation.”    -Matthew Centrowitz

Centro’s goes as far as stating that when it comes down to something like an Olympic final, with a bunch of close to equally talented athletes, that it is more a mental thing than physical:

“I think a lot of it is more mental than physical. The best way to work on that for me over the years was just a lot of races – every race from college to post-collegiate was a culmination of all those races that got me to where I was in Rio and I was able to respond to that slow, tactical race, and be able to handle that type of calibre of field.”  -Matthew Centrowitz


Centro winning at the 2016 World Indoor Champs. Photo by T&Fphoto, Randy Miyazaki

A common training method of Salazar is to add speed repetitions to the end of workouts. Centro’s thoughts on this after he had just met Salazar:

“Working with Alberto for a few weeks over in Europe, he noticed that I don’t work on my speed as much as I should for a 1500-meter guy. So those last couple of weeks over in Europe after London, at the end of workouts I was sprinting when I was tired and doing shorter stuff that I’d never done before. He believes that this is going to mean huge improvements for me over the next couple of years. I expect to see myself have a stronger last 50 meters.”  -Matthew Centrowitz

Periodisation – The Salazar Way

PHOTO: Matthew Centrowitz celebrating after winning the 2016 NYRR Wanamaker Mile in a personal best 3:50.63 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

“Arthur Lydiard was a revolutionary coach, a great coach. My training system is very different. My belief is that the human body likes continuity, it likes doing things repetitively.”  -Alberto Salazar

Like many of the world’s leading coaches, Salazar is a believer in periodisation.

“We have two 20 week periods (cycles) per year.”  -Alberto Salazar

A summary of his method of periodisation is outlined below:

  • Two 20 week cycles per year.
  • Two peaks per year at the end of each cycle (usually for the indoor season and then outdoor season).
  • “Within those 20-week cycles we are usually looking for about 5 weeks of building up gradually, and then having about 8-10 weeks at the very maximum level volume and intensity. Then we will go with a 4-5 week taper period into the championship races.” -Alberto Salazar
  • At the end of each 20-week cycle, Salazar’s athlete’s have 4 weeks recovery (2 weeks completely off then 2 weeks of jogging).

Training Specifics

Centrowitz, World Indoor Champs 2016 After the Gold Medal Photo by Chris Lotsbom

“We do a lot of under and over distance stuff. We’ll go 4-5 miles at a time, maybe 6, a lot slower than race pace. And then we do a lot of repetitions of 800m, 1000m at race pace – over and over.”  -Matthew Centrowitz

A typical week of training for Centro at the mid-point of a 20-week cycle is outlined below:


Miles per week: Approximately 80-85 (~130km)


  • A.M.: 7 miles steady
  • P.M: 5 miles steady


  • A.M.: Long intervals (for example 6 x one-mile or 8 x 1000m) or 6 mile tempo run. A total of 6 miles hard running.
  • P.M: 4 miles steady + gym (consisting of core and strength via the use of weights).


  • A.M.: 9 miles steady
  • P.M: 5 miles steady + massage


  • A.M.: 7 miles steady
  • P.M: 5 miles steady


  • A.M.: Short intervals (200s and hills) or medium intervals (600s, 400s) at 1500m pace.
  • P.M: 4 miles + gym


  • A.M.: 7 miles steady
  • P.M: 5 miles steady + massage


  • A.M.: 15 miles steady (85 min long run approx.)

Example Workouts

“Typically faster races I like to lock in around 56 seconds pace (per lap), which is 3:30 pace, and that’s my P.R. and close to the American record as well, so that’s usually the pace I normally train at.” -Matthew Centrowitz

Some documented and verified sessions completed during the 4 week taper period leading into a major championship are outlined below:

Whilst is Rio, shortly before the Olympic 1500m, Centro completed the below set of 400m reps – all with a 500m jog recovery:

Another example of a crazy awesome workout was documented by Sports Illustrated (here).

‘Two weeks before the Olympics, Centrowitz ran 1:47 seconds to win an 800-meter race in Eugene. Salazar had told him that after that race he would run two more 800-meter repeats. This is a common Salazar training method—sending his runners out for hard work out after races. Centrowitz ran 1:53, jogged 1,200 meters (three laps around the track) and then ran 1:49 to finish the workout. “Then Alberto said, ‘Where are you going, we’re doing one more,’” said Centrowitz. He ran a 1:47 to complete a stunning workout.’

Working on Weaknesses

With an 800m P.R. of 1:44.62, Centro has a lot of natural speed. It is the longer reps that he views as his weakness and makes sure to concentrate more on this:

“It just kind of varies, whatever you are lacking at the moment, whatever you need to improve on. For me, a lot of it is that speed endurance. My bottom end speed is usually pretty good, so like 200’s, 300’s, 400’s – they come around pretty quick – but that 800, 1000 kind of rep, that’s my weakness and what I tend to work on a lot.” -Matthew Centrowitz



  • Nike Cross Nationals Coaching Clinic 2012 Videos.
  • 1500m Training with Matthew Centrowitz | Gillette World Sport.
  • Sports Illustrated.
  • Like Father, Like Son: My Story on Running, Coaching and Parenting. By Matt Centrowitz and Nathan Williams.

By Sam Burke – Runner’s Tribe



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