If you do enough workouts on the track eventually it can become difficult to come up with new and interesting ideas for what to run (although personally, I believe any time I get to run on the track its fun no matter what the workout is). Therefore, I decided I would post some of my favorite track workouts to help give you some ideas.
Today’s workout is 4 x 1000 meters/300 meters. The 1000 meters is run at or just faster than 5K pace followed by the 300 meters at mile pace. I heard of this workout in a Running Times podcast interview of Pete Rea (coach of ZAP Fitness) called Your Last Hard Workout. The podcast actually lists a few workouts that Pete uses with the ZAP Fitness team, this happens to be my favorite of the bunch.
What makes this workout so fun for me is the mixing of different paces, which is also what makes it challenging. I always seem to have a hard time getting back to 5K pace after that first 300. I really like to use this workout as part of my training for a 5K or shortly before a 10K (makes the 10K pace feel much easier). As far as rest goes, I use a 200 meter jog between the 1000 and the 300 and then a 400 meter jog between the 300 and 1000.
I hope you find this workout as enjoyable as I do. Please let me know what you think of it. Or if you have any favorite workouts you would like to tell me about feel free to leave me a comment. I will try and post a new workout every so often.
To be a runner you have to be very determined and focused if you want to get in the necessary training to be your best. However, when it comes to choosing what types of races to run the extremely focused mindset of most runners can some times cause problems. I have noticed that a lot of runners tend to latch onto a particular race distance and focus on it year after year. They may throw in a race of another distance every now and then but more as a training run than an actual race.
These days it seems like the marathon is the race that gets the most attention. From beginning runners to experienced runners, that attitude that the marathon is the ultimate racing goal is spreading. Although, its not just the marathon, no matter what the distance you will find runners who have convinced themselves that it is the only one for them. While its true that it usually takes several tries at racing a certain distance to get the hang of it, if you keep running the same race over an over eventually your progress with hit a plateau at best or you could even start getting slower if you are racing the same distance too frequently (you see this a lot with frequent marathoners).
My suggestion is to try running some races that are completely different that what you are used to. Not just throw in a few 5K’s or a half-marathon here and there, but to take a full year and really switch your focus to a new type of racing. I hear a lot of marathoners say that they can’t race the shorter races because they can’t handle the speed work. And a lot of runners who focus on the shorter races say they can’t handle the higher mileage needed for a marathon. While I’m sure there are some runners out there who truly couldn’t handle some faster paced training or higher mileage, in most cases the problem is that the increase in intensity or volume is don’t too quickly. This is why I suggest dedicating a whole year to trying something new. If you have a full year to gradually adjust your focus in training you can take your time and avoid the injuries that come from sudden changes in intensity or volume.
When I was little my dad decided he wanted to run a marathon. So he started training like crazy and he ran a couple marathons. But the main thing I remember about his experience was him saying that after he ran the marathon he saw huge improvements in his 10K times. That always stuck with me. And in 2007 I decided to switch my focus to the marathon and give it a try. I’ve always been a shorter distance guy; my favorite event is the 1500 meters. So speed came much easier to me than endurance. I slowly built my mileage up to almost 90 miles per week, the most I had ever done before was about 60 per week. Eventually I realized that I actually enjoyed my 20 milers. When race day came, even though I didn’t have a great race, I still really enjoyed the experience and look forward to trying another marathon sometime in the future. But more importantly, when I returned to focusing on my shorter racing I found that I was way stronger and my times began improving by quite a bit.
So if you are constantly running marathons or other long races, try taking a year to focus on some 5K’s (or even do some track and XC racing) and you will be amazed how the speed you develop during this time will make your marathon pace feel much easier when you return to that distance. And if you are always sticking with the shorter races, try focusing on the half or full marathon for a year and then when you go back to your shorter racing you will find that you are much stronger and able to hold faster pace for longer.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this training method, or if you have tried it in the past let me know how it worked for you.
It seems that a lot of runners are intimidated by the idea of doing speed work, especially the kind that involves running on a track. I’ve talked to many beginning runners who feel they are not experienced enough to do speed work. As far as the more experienced runners go the most common excuse is that they get injured when they do speed work. While I admit that doing speed work may increase the chances of injury much the same way increasing mileage does, if you introduce speed work into your running schedule gradually and properly the benefits far outweigh the risks.
The problem is that we tend to think of doing something like 400 meter repeats as fast as we can when we think of speed work. I was guilty of this myself a few years ago when I decided to start doing workouts on the track for the first time in over 10 years. In my mind I still felt like I was in college and should be doing the same sort of track workouts I did back then, my body however did not feel the same way. So I started out with two speed sessions a week of repeat 800’s and 400’s. By the end of the third week I had to quit doing speed work and cut way back on my mileage for about a month to get rid of all the new aches and pains I had.
One of the best (and most overlooked) ways to introduce speed work into your training is with strides. Strides are usually around 100 meters in length. They are broken into three sections; the first section is used to accelerate. During this portion you gradually build your speed so that at the start of the second section you hit your top speed. This isn’t necessarily an all out sprint but rather a controlled fast pace. You then hold this pace for the second portion of the stride. The final section is for slowly easing back down to either a walk or slow jog. Personally, when I do strides I like to do them on the straightaway on a track or barefoot on the infield. That way I can use the markings on the football field to designate the different sections of each stride. I go from goal line to goal line with the first 30 yards being the acceleration phase and then I hold my top speed for the next 40 yards and then gradually slow down over the final 30 yards.
The great thing about strides is that they can be worked into just about any type of run. Often times people like to do them after they have completed a normal easy run. However, they can also be done in the middle of a run. When I run from my house there really isn’t a good spot for doing strides in my neighborhood after I finish my run. So what I will do is plan my run so that at some point I pass by a track where I do several laps of jogging the curves and striding the straights. Basically, strides can be done anywhere you find room to safely do about 15 seconds of faster paced running. I would recommend trying to do your strides on a softer surface (grass, dirt, a track, etc.) if at all possible and as with any sort of speed work, always be sure and do a good warm-up first. One other way of doing strides that I have found to be fun change of pace is to do them up hill. If you are doing strides up hill just go for time instead of distance. Find fairly steep hill and do about a 15 second stride up the hill. You can then walk back down for your recovery. This is a great way to build strength in your legs.
When doing strides the most important thing to focus on is your form. You want to work on running fast but relaxed. Also, make sure you are not over striding. Your foot should be landing directly under your body, not out in front. For me it always feels a bit awkward the first few times I do strides after not doing any speed work for a while. But if you keep at it and pay attention to your form eventually it will start to feel comfortable.
Strides are a great way to ease your body into speed work for the first time or after an extended period away from faster running. Also, they are perfect for keeping you used to faster running during times of the year when you are backing off your normal speed work. And, they are easy enough on your body that you can even do them when you are focused on building your mileage.