Track Time: For Best Results, Start Running On The Oval

Don't be afraid of the track: Embrace it and start training on it. It will make you faster. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Incorporating Track Workouts Into Your Training

Regardless of the race distance you’re training for, you should do short, middle-distance, and long interval workouts. Mixed interval workouts are optional and are best used as discussed above. Most runners, regardless of their experience and fitness levels, should perform one and only one track workout per week during the 8- to 16-week period preceding a race.

The challenge level of your track workouts must be tailored to fit your current fitness level. And the particular order in which you sequence your track workouts should vary, depending on the race distance you’re preparing for.

Many runners break their training into distinct phases and do only one type of interval workout in each phase. However, I believe that runners should create a rotation in which they do each type of interval workout regularly throughout the training process. After all, what’s the point of building up, say, a lot of speed by doing a block of short interval workouts relatively early in the training cycle if you’re then just going to eliminate short interval workouts and lose that hard-earned speed later in the training cycle? Rotating your track workouts enables you to maintain the fitness gains you earn in each component of overall running fitness.

That said, you should give greater emphasis to specific types of track workouts at different points in the training process. During the peak period of training that immediately precedes your biggest race, you should emphasize track workouts that target the intensity level that is closest to the intensity level of your upcoming race.

For 5K runners, middle-distance intervals are closest to race pace. For 10K and half-marathon runners, long intervals are closest to race pace. Track workouts of any sort are not well suited to marathon-pace runs, so if you’re training for a marathon I recommend that you do your marathon-pace runs off the track and focus on mixed-pace intervals in the peak period of marathon training to maintain speed, VO2 max, and lactate threshold gains established through short, middle-length and long interval workouts performed earlier in the training cycle.

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All road racers should emphasize short intervals in the earlier part of the training cycle because it is helpful to establish a foundation of speed that you can then extend over longer distances as the training cycle progresses. Plus, the very high speeds that are involved in short interval workouts are less race-specific than the slightly slower speeds involved in the other types of interval workout, so they do not need to be emphasized in the peak period of training.

The following table presents examples of how you might sequence the various types of track workouts over 16 weeks for each of four race distances:

5K 10K Half-Marathon Marathon
Short Intervals 100’s Short Intervals 100’s Short Intervals 100’s Short Intervals 100’s
Middle-Distance Intervals 600’s Middle-Distance Intervals 600’s Middle-Distance Intervals 600’s Middle-Distance Intervals 600’s
Short Intervals 200’s Short Intervals 200’s Short Intervals 300’s Short Intervals 300’s
Middle-Distance Intervals 800’s Middle-Distance Intervals 800’s Middle-Distance Intervals 800’s Middle-Distance Intervals 800’s
Long Intervals 1600’s Short Intervals 300’s Short Intervals 400’s Short Intervals 400’s
Short Intervals 300’s Long Intervals 1600’s Long Intervals 1600’s Long Intervals 1600’s
Middle-Distance Intervals 800’s Short Intervals 400’s Middle-Distance Intervals 1000’s Middle-Distance Intervals 1000’s
Long Intervals 1600’s Middle-Distance Intervals 1000’s Short Intervals 400’s Short Intervals 400’s
Short Intervals 200’s Long Intervals 1600’s Long Intervals 1600’s Middle-Distance Intervals 1000’s
Middle-Distance Intervals 1000’s Short Intervals 300’s Middle-Distance Intervals 1200’s Long Intervals 2000’s
Long Intervals 1600’s Middle-Distance Intervals 1000’s Short Intervals 300’s Middle-Distance Intervals 1200’s
Middle-Distance Intervals 1000’s Long Intervals 1600’s Long Intervals 2000’s Long Intervals 2400’s
Long Intervals 2000’s Short Intervals 400’s Middle-Distance Intervals 1000’s Short Intervals 400’s
Short Intervals 400’s Long Intervals 2000’s Long Intervals 2400’s Long Intervals 3000’s
Middle-Distance Intervals 1000’s Middle-Distance Intervals 1200’s Middle-Distance Intervals 1200’s Mixed Intervals
Middle-Distance Intervals 1200’s Long Intervals 2400’s Long Intervals 3000’s Mixed Intervals

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About The Author:

Matt Fitzgerald is the author of numerous books, including Racing Weight: How To Get Lean For Peak Performance (VeloPress, 2012). He is also a Training Intelligence Specialist for PEAR Sports. To learn more about Matt visit www.mattfitzgerald.org.

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