Coach Culpepper: Hit The Track Running

  • By Alan Culpepper
  • Published Jun. 6, 2013
  • Updated Jan. 31, 2014 at 6:44 AM UTC
Track workouts are beneficial, but proceed cautiously to avoid injury when you start. Photo:

Building your speed is just one of the many benefits of running around the oval.

When it comes to running, the track is most often associated with speed. And if you use it wisely, the speed you build can help you set new PRs, run down your competitors, and perform workouts with more precision. But if you try to run too hard or run on the track too often, it could put a big dent in your training or lead to unnecessary soreness and even injury.

So why would runners take those risks? Whether you’re preparing to run a faster mile or your first marathon, there are huge benefits to including track sessions in your training program. Here are some simple and effective ways to implement those kinds of workouts and realize some great benefits.

Tangible Benefits

Improve Efficiency
The soft, perfectly level and responsive surface of the track allows for increased efficiency as it relates to footstrike, stride length and toe-off. This is also achieved through the inclusion of shorter, quicker intervals or intervals faster than goal race pace. Including sub-race pace workouts on the track will help increase your efficiency at your intended race pace no matter what surface you will be racing on. Even if you are preparing for a road race, improving your efficiency is critical and performing workouts on the track helps with this process.

RELATED: Track Workouts Vs. Road Workouts

Understand Effort
Even with all the amazing advancements in GPS technology, the track remains the optimal way to monitor and improve your perception of effort during a workout. Having the ability to check splits every lap (or half lap) and gauge your effort will allow you to adjust your pacing accordingly during workouts. The goal of workouts is not just to run as hard as you can but rather learn how to run at different intensities for various lengths of time. Knowing exactly how far you have to go for each interval allows for a quicker adaptation to the learned skill of perceived effort. You can also practice race pace on the track to really dial in your effort for race day and learn how to settle into the pacing.

Monitor Progression
By adding track workouts to your training schedule, you can duplicate the same sessions about two times a month and see how your fitness and sense of pace are progressing. Even if you duplicate workouts on the road, it is difficult to make true comparisons from workout to workout. The track is quantifiable and impartial; you can’t fake your way through a workout on the track. If your fitness has improved, you will know it by the times you hit for the intervals. Another great way to compare workouts is to run a tempo run on the track by heart rate. For example, if you run a 3-mile tempo run at a precise heart rate, you can run the same workout at the same heart rate several weeks later but, hopefully, run it at a much faster pace.

Improve Concentration
This may seem counterintuitive, but the mundane quality of the track causes an increase in focus and improves concentration. Practicing concentration in workouts allows for better application on race day.

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FILED UNDER: Coach Culpepper / Inside The Magazine / Training TAGS: / / / /

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