3 Track Workouts for Beginner Runners
In the world of running there are numerous types of runs that can help you become a faster runner. However, there are 3 basic types of runs that make up a good beginner training program; long runs, tempo runs, and track/speed workouts. These are typically called runs with a purpose, and each one has a different goal in your program to build endurance, strength, and speed. In a training program all three runs with a purpose build on each other to maximize your performance. For this article, we are going to focus on the last run with a purpose: track/speed workouts (these can also called short and long interval training).
Pace Note: We often hear new runners say that they hate how boring running is, and after talking with them we usually find that they are doing runs with no purpose. Running is about self-improvement, so you need to set a goal to achieve and your runs should have a purpose that pushes you toward achieving that goal.
Your 3 runs with a purpose work like a training pyramid. Long run/easy runs form the base of your training pyramid and help build endurance, tempo runs build strength, and finally track workouts at the top to build speed. Beginner runners should focus on the bottom of the training pyramid: 1) first building good base mileage through your long run. 2) Once you are comfortable with a long run, focus on adding a tempo run into your workouts to build up your endurance.
Pace Note: Track workouts are high intensity and should be left out of a beginner training program until a suitable base level of running has been developed. New runners should complete at least two 4 week cycles of easy runs before working track sessions into their routine to help reduce and/or prevent injuries.
Track work training is designed to build a runner's top speed by increasing VO2max and improving running form (check out our article on running form to the right). Once you are at a comfortable level with your long runs and tempo runs, an easy track workout can be added into your routine. Start with a low number of repetitions over a short distance and slowly increase the duration and distance to avoid injury. The 3 track workouts listed below are in order of intensity, with strides being the easiest form of speed-work to start with and are perfect for new/beginner runners.
Pace Note: A good running program for beginners will be limited 1-2 runs with a purpose per week plus a long run. This gives your body time to recover between your hard workouts.
Here is an example training week for a beginner runner adding strides:
1. Strides or 100m repeats
Strides are the perfect starting point for beginner runners looking at add speed work into their routine. Strides are typically 30-second upticks in your pace that can be worked into any run. The 30-second uptick is repeated usually between 5 and 10 times in the middle of a run, with 30 seconds at a slower pace in between. Your uptick pace should be faster than conversation pace, but not an all-out sprint. The 30-second in-between rest pace should be at conversation pace. Strides will allow your body to adjust to running at a faster pace without pushing it past its limit.
100-meter repeats are the most basic track workout and are very similar to strides. They are performed around your 5k race pace or slightly faster. A typical 100-meter track workout would consist of a .5 - 1 mile warm up at Easy pace. Followed by 100-meter sprints repeated 8 times, with 30 seconds of rest in between each sprint. Finally, the workout ends with a .5-1 mile cool down run at Easy pace. As you progress in your training you can increase the number of repetitions or increase the distance.
100m Track Workout:
Pace Note: A general rule of thumb is to increase the distance or time of your run by no more than 10% week over week. This will help prevent over-stressing your body and injuries.
Once you are comfortable adding strides and 100m sprints into your running routine, your track work can be expanded to longer distances. A great way to work up to longer distances on a track is with a ladder workout. A ladder workout starts with a short track sprint (usually around 100m or 200m) and after each sprint increases the distance up to a peak (usually around 600m or 800m). Once the peak distance is reached the distance of each subsequent sprint is decreased back down to the original distance. This gradual increase of distance helps the body adjust to longer sprints without over stressing yourself or more advanced runners can up the distance for a more intense workout.
Ladder Track Workouts:
3. 400m & 800m repeats
The final track workout is more aligned to intermediate runners, but if you are feeling confident with strides and ladders you can work in 400m & 800m repeats. 400m & 800m repeats are a staple for any runner and offer a great ‘bang for your buck’ when training. When you start out with 400m and 800m repeats stick to just 2x800m for the first couple of weeks then gradually add more sets of 800m and 2x400m. This is a challenging workout, but if you are looking to add speed this will help unlock it.
400m & 800m Track Repeats:
Pace Note: The 800m distance is the sweet spot track workouts for runners because this distance is past the amount of time they can hold an Anaerobic sprint (Usually around 3 minutes). By pushing past this point you are pushing your body beyond your Anaerobic capability which will drive adaptation and extend Anaerobic capacity (increasing your VO2max) leading to faster paces over longer distances.
Now get out there, hit the track, and don’t forget!
TRAIN HARD | RUN STRONG
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