Photo by Erik Isakson
Does the idea of a six-lane track circling a football field conjure up feelings of middle school anxiety? Don't be intimidated. Tracks are not only for spandex-clad superstars and gym class wind sprints.
In fact, incorporating track workouts into your weekly running routine is a great way to improve your speed and freshen up your regimen.
When you mix track work into your training, you're almost certain to see race times improve at every distance. Track workouts are also a helpful tool to measure your fitness.
If you're used to trotting along at a steady pace for your daily runs, shorter, quicker intervals can be exhilarating and liberating. We promise it won't be as excruciating as your seventh-grade memories, but it might just make you feel like a kid again.
Speed Things Up
A standard outdoor track measures 400 meters (roughly a quarter mile) around from the shortest, inside lane. The measured distance can help you learn proper pacing. With no hills to contend with, you'll be able nail down the feel and perceived effort-level of your race pace by way of shorter segments.
If you're more interested in fitness than 5K times, hitting the track will improve your cardio and aid in weight-loss. Short, fast bursts of running keep your metabolism fired up far longer post-workout than steady-state exercise. You'll recruit new muscles as you work on your acceleration, which increases muscle tone and strength.
In addition to physical gains, track workouts help you become mentally tougher. Learning that you're capable of holding a fast pace and pushing through tough workouts will make you a more confident runner.
Work It Out
Begin each speed session with 10 minutes of light jogging. Finish your warm up with three to four 100-meter accelerations, concentrating on picking up your speed and perfecting your form. During the workout, resist the urge to start out too quickly.
The goal is to be as fast at the end of the workout as you were at the start. Conserving energy early on will ensure that your last few efforts are strong and consistent. When you've completed the final interval, cool down with another 10 minutes of easy running.
New Kid on the Track
If you're unfamiliar with the oval, get your feet wet with these simple, speedy workouts.
In and Outs
Mix up your pace by running the straight sections of the track (called straight-aways) at a fast pace, and recover with slow jogging around the turns. Start with six laps and work up to twelve. If this feels too challenging, walk the turns.