This post is a follow up to park one: Running track etiquette. Be sure to check that post out after you read this one!
Track workouts are not meant to be super long. As a distance runner, it’s tempting at the end of a workout that only carried you for 2.5 miles to say “I didn’t run far enough!” But remember, you are running a different kind of workout, and not everything has to be a long run to be helpful!
Before any track workout you should warm up. I typically run 3-4 laps around the track. All of my track workouts are between 2 and 3 miles not counting warm up/cool down. After I complete my workout, I cool down with a slow jog for 1-2 laps then walk a lap.
I also recommending running a one mile time trial. You can use online pace calculators based off of your one mile time to help you know what paces you should run for other track workouts you may find.
A few things to keep in mind: a 400 is one lap around the track. Four laps equals one mile, so an 800 is two laps around the track, or 1/2 mile. If a workout calls for “3 x’s 800” that means you are running around the track two times for each of your three intervals. Be sure to take your GPS watch with you so you can make sure you are hitting the paces you want for each interval. I also bring a water bottle and towel with me to the track.
My 4 favorite track workouts:
Yasso 800’s : Named after Bart Yasso, this is a killer workout for marathon training. Take your marathon goal time and convert the hours and minutes to minutes and seconds. For instance, if your goal is 4:45, your 800m pace (two laps) is 4 min and 45 sec. Complete a series of 3-4 of these 800’s then slowly build up until you can do up to 10 (that’s a lot, I have never done more than 4, but I don’t train for marathons often). Rest for 3-4 minutes in between each interval (slow jog).
Ladder: At your 5K race pace per mile, run 400m, 800m, 1,200m, (one lap, two laps, three laps) 800m, 400m. (two laps, one lap) Rest for 1-3 minutes between intervals. It’s better to keep a slow jog as your “rest” as opposed to standing still or walking.
Walk the curves, run the straightaways: This one is pretty self explanatory, but is a great way to work on bursts of speed and to keep things from getting boring. As a former 100 meter dash runner, I love this workout! Start on one of the starting lines, and spring for 100 meters, then walk the next 100 (the curve) as a recovery until you get to the next straightaway. I try to complete 4-8 laps around the track. I know 1.5 miles doesn’t seem like a lot but if you are all out sprinting, trust me, your legs will be jello at the end!
Cruise intervals: There is a great article about cruise intervals that explains your running threshold and lactic acid build up. The point of the cruise interval is not to get to where you can constantly run it faster, but to be able to run it at a certain pace and have the interval get easier/require less effort each time. It can be tempting to run as fast as you possibly can but that defeats the purpose of this workout. I run my cruise intervals at a little bit faster than my half marathon pace per mile. The key in this workout is the recovery period. Jog slowly during it, but keep it between 1-2 minutes and resist the urge to go too fast! This workout is deliberately kept at a slower pace. I do one mile cruise intervals but you can also do shorter ones as well. I complete 3 of these with 2 minute recovery jogs in between.
If you have any questions I am happy to try to answer them!
QOTD: What is your favorite track workout?
Love ladder workouts!! So challenging, but also so awesome!
Mindy @ Road Runner Girl says
I love the walk the curves run the straighways workout! I haven’t been to the track in forever!
Erin @ Her Heartland Soul says
I love that shoe picture! So colorful!
Krissie J @ Philly Nerd Girl says
Have you been able to see some speed up in your times since doing these?
Yes for sure. When I run my track intervals, I haven’t changed the pace yet, but I am able to hit the pace with much less effort if that makes sense. Also, when I am just running in my neighborhood I will look down and realize I am running much faster than I thought.
Shannon @GirlsGotSole says
Track is the least favorite running workout for me. But, I am going to try to embrace them this season. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d say ladder. I’ll be doing a few of those in the coming weeks. 🙂
Good luck! I enjoy doing track workouts in a group, makes it more fun!
Debbie @ Coach Debbie Runs says
I love ladder workouts, especially on the way back down 🙂
Thank you again for doing these posts! I’m looking forward to trying these on the indoor track this week, my first track session! I ordered a Garmin Foot Pod to help me track my progress and I took it for an outside run yesterday to calibrate it. How many speed sessions a week do you do, and is there a recommended length for each session (either length or time)? Is there a certain workout that you’ve seen as being more helpful than the others? Thanks again!
To start I wouldn’t do more than once a week. I do between 2-3 miles per session. They are all great workouts I would try one each week to mix it up and see what you like best, but I never do the same thing each week
I’m not sure I understand the Ladder. Do you do 400m, then 1-2 min slow jog, 800m slow jog, etc?
Yes! Take that jog break in between each interval then go into the next distance. 🙂