I’m a huge fan of the track workout. It’s something that I didn’t introduce into my training for about five years after I started running, probably because of a subconscious fear instilled in me by awful, once-a-year miles forced on me in middle school gym class. But now that I’ve gotten comfortable with running on the track, speed workouts are my favorite of all. Yes, they’re awful. But you feel damn good afterward.
Scared of the track?
Going to the track is a little intimidating the first time, but it needn’t be. All you really need to know is this:
- One lap is 400 meters, just about a quarter-mile.
- Run counterclockwise.
- Stay to the inside most of the time, yelling “track” when you need to pass someone — they should get out of the way.
- When you hear someone behind you yell “track,” you get out of the way. Or get run over and make an enemy in the process.
Once you have this down, you need to know what you do there, since running around in circles at a steady pace gets boring quickly (as in immediately). While lots of track workouts are so complicated you need to bring a piece of paper to remind yourself of the paces and distances, my favorites are the simple ones that involve running a single distance multiple times at a single prescribed pace, punctuated by rest intervals. To me, such workouts mimic the feel of a marathon, where miles at the beginning feel easy, but as your body wears down, hanging on to the pace that was once so comfortable becomes a true test of fitness and willpower.
With that melodramatic introduction, here are my three favorite track workouts. Of course, warm up before attempting any of these, cool down afterward, and only attempt them if you’re already in good running shape and know what a proper intensity feels like. These aren’t get-off-the-couch-and-into-shape workouts. If something feels too hard, by all means slow down.
Three Killer Track Workouts
Track Workout #3: 3 x 1 mile with 400 m rest intervals.
Pace: Determine 5K mile-pace and subtract 10 seconds.
Just in case you aren’t getting the notation, consider my example: My 5K pace is about a 6:12 mile, so I’m looking at 6:02 for this workout. After a warmup, I run one mile at 6:02, then jog slowly around the track one time, then repeat the whole thing two more times, for a total of three repeats. Too easy, tough guy? Try resting for only one minute instead of one lap.
Track Workout #2: Yasso 800′s.
I’ve mentioned this workout before, but that’s because I like it so much. It’s used as a marathon prediction workout, but it’s a good workout in its own right. Here’s how it works. Start with your marathon time (or better, your target marathon time). For me last year, it was 3 hours, 10 minutes. Now shift the units so that it becomes minutes and seconds instead of hours and minutes. (3:10 becomes 3 minutes, 10 seconds.) Run 800m at this pace, then lightly jog for the same amount of time. Do this as many times as possible. If you can complete 10 repeats and 10 rests, then in theory, you can run your target marathon time on a flat course. In my experience, this is a bit optimistic — that’s why I like to do more than 10. For more, see the original Runner’s World article introducing the workout.
And my all-time favorite…
Track Workout #1: 10 x 400m with 400m rest intervals.
Pace: Determine 5K mile-pace, then divide by 4 and subtract 10 seconds. (Example: 19:15 5K is a 6:12 mile. Divided by 4 gives 1:33, subtracting 10 gives 1:23 for each 400m interval.) This takes the idea of “easy at first, brutal at the end” to the extreme.” And it’s so easy — Run 400m, jog 400m. After one or two of these, it seems like a breeze. Get to number 6 or so, and all the sudden 4 more is out of the question. But because each only requires a short effort, I find myself thinking “Ok, I can manage just one more.” And then after a rest, I think the same thing. And so on until the end.
And then, as I drink my recovery drink, I feel like I own the world.
Good luck! Why not get your speed on today?
This post is part of a series of posts designed to teach you how to run long and strong. Go check out the rest!