Track workouts are a great way to increase speed, improve pacing and build confidence. These short, faster workouts will not only balance out your easy days and longer runs, but also improve your overall pace once you get back on the road.
Walking onto a track may seem intimidating, but you don't have to be super fast to run on one. Runners of all abilities are welcome on the oval. You just have to follow the rules and be respectful of other runners.
Many high schools and colleges even encourage runners to use their facilities as long as they don't interfere with athletic events or team practices.
Signs will usually be posted on the track letting you know when it's open to the public.
The Benefits of the Oval
The track offers runners a safe, flat and accurately measured course on which to run. Each lap of the track is 400 meters in length, so athletes learn to pace by feel as they run repeats or intervals at a predefined pace.
For example, you might run 4 x 800m, or two laps around the track, repeated four times at 2:00 minutes each, to hone in on what it feels like to run an 8-minute mile. Between intervals, recover by walking or slowly jogging until you're ready to begin the next one.
Once you get back out on the pavement, your body should automatically know what this new pace feels like.
Adding speed to your track workouts will also stress your body in different ways and force it to adapt to the new demands of your training. This should be done judiciously. One track workout per week should be enough to satisfy the needs of most runners.
Short intervals of 400 meters or less build strength and power and should be run at a very fast pace. Longer intervals are used to develop aerobic capacity, improve one's ability to clear lactic acid in the working muscles and build up resistance to fatigue.
As much as you may want to take it easy, in order to benefit and stimulate growth and adaptation, these workouts must be done at a pace that introduces some discomfort.
Where to Learn More
If you're wondering where to begin, many running clubs have track nights in the spring and summer months. This is a great way to find some new running friends and join them in a structured workout while you get used to your new environment.
If you're more of a lone wolf, you might want to check out some online resources for training information. McMillan Running and Run SMART Project both offer free calculators to help you figure out appropriate training paces, broken down by 400 and 800-meter paces.
When done correctly, hard work on the track will reward you with a stronger running body, increased confidence and faster race times.
Find your next race.