Olympic champion Lasse Viren loved this track workout. You should learn to like it, too.
When many runners think of a track workout, images of gut-wrenching repeats ranging from 400 meters to 2 miles followed by a brief break come to mind. Let’s break that train of thought for the time being and shorten things up a bit.
Next time you head to the track give the one-size-fits-all workout described below a shot. This non-stop session will benefit runners training for 5K, the marathon and everything in between. It’s effective at increasing your anaerobic threshold (or the point where lactate begins to accumulate in the bloodstream) as well as for working on changing gears at speeds close to race-like paces. This workout was a staple in the training program of Finnish great Lasse Viren, who won four Olympic gold medals and set three world records over the course of his incredible career.
Here’s how to do it:
2-3 miles easy jogging, followed by dynamic stretching, form drills and 6 x 20-second strides (accelerations).
8-16 laps of striding the straightaways at a solid clip (10-15 sec/mile faster than 5K effort) and jogging the turns for recovery. Essentially this is 2 to 4 miles of fartlek with 100 meters run at a fast, but sustainable speed (not an all-out sprint!) followed by 100 meters of slow jogging for recovery.
2-3 miles easy jogging.
This is a great benchmark session, or one you should aim to repeat every 3 to 4 weeks as a measure of checking your progress. If it takes you 24 minutes to complete 12 laps the first time you perform this workout, the goal should be to do it faster at the same effort level the next time around. Or, if you can only complete 6 laps the first time out before calling it quits, aim for 8-10 after you’ve gotten a few more weeks of training under your belt. The ability to do the same session faster, or run more laps than you did the last time you attempted the workout, are both signs of an improving level of fitness.
Not sure if you’re doing the workout correctly? This is a session that gets harder as it goes on, but it should never get to the point where you’re rigging up and unable to finish. If your form starts falling apart after a few laps, you’re going too fast. Remember: no stopping!