Andie Cozzarelli here! Running is not always the most glamourous sport and quite honestly training is not always the most fun. The fun part of running comes when you are toeing the line on race day with nervous excitement ready to see what you can do. However, that enjoyment starts to diminish when you get to that point in your races where you seem to hit a plateau.
Race after race, without improvement can be quite frustrating and somewhat discouraging. If you are a beginner and this is something you are struggling with I have a solution for you! Hitting the track will not only help you reach that next level in your training it also adds a little something different to your weekly routine. I agree that pounding out miles on the road day after day can get boring and this is coming from someone who looks forward to a 17 mile long run!
How to get started:
Find a Track
This is probably the hardest part of using the track to train. To do this I suggest contacting local high schools and colleges to find out what their policies are on using their track. They may have hours that the track is open to the public but you will never know unless you ask. You may also be able to ask your local running stores to see if they have any insight into this. I was recently in Florida on vacation and saw on a store website that they occasionally use a cement path around a field that they measured to be about 400m around.
Start With a Base
What I mean by this is to have at least a couple of weeks of simply running mileage before adding the track element in. If you haven’t been running don’t start your first week back to training with an interval workout on the track, give yourself those couple of weeks of running to prime you for the up-tempo elements on the track.
Never start a track workout without a proper warm up otherwise you will be asking for injury. For a beginner warm up I suggest starting with 1-2 laps around the track at an easy pace. Follow that up with some dynamic stretching exercises. Wear a few layers to keep your muscles warm - have you seen the new Roga Pants? Here's a great example of a dynamic warmup routine from Little Wing. After stretching do 2-4 50-100m strides. Strides are pickups of increased speed to help you ease into the fast paced workout.
So, what do you do on the track? The answer is intervals. Intervals are a workout consisting of set distances at a high intensity with periods of low intensity recovery in between. These can be done at slightly easier paces with short recovery or fast paces with longer recovery. There are all kinds of different workouts that may be done but the goal is to be able to get slightly faster on each interval so that your last one is your fastest one. This means that pacing yourself will be particularly important. A good beginner workout: 1 mile with hard straightaways and walk/jog on the curves. Start at 75% of your max and gradually get faster. If you need more interval tips, Lauren Fleshman will kick your butt with her Workout of the Week on Strava.
Use a Watch
Use a watch while doing your interval workout. Time each interval and the recovery period in between. Timing the interval will help to give you a baseline and will make it easy for you to track your progress. You want the recovery to be relatively the same between each interval which is why you must keep track of this too. I recommend getting yourself a watch that can take splits and store them (at least 50). This doesn’t have to be expensive so don’t worry about getting a GPS watch a simple one will do.
After your workout do a good easy cool down. Jog 1-2 laps around the track and finish It off with some good static stretching. If you need tips on stretches, use this post-run refresh from Jasyoga. Get yourself some water and within 30 minutes refuel! I suggest Picky Bars :)
Need more tips? Tweet me at @run4acozz!