Embarking on your first-ever track workout at 51 can be a bit intimidating and pretty freakin' exciting. My coach and partner, a former cross country and track athlete/coach recently educated me in the finer points of track. We had no idea what my body was capable of and it was kind of thrilling to explore my limits.
What are the benefits of track workouts?
Track workouts allow us to monitor and improve our perception of effort during a workout. Having the ability to check splits every lap (or half lap) and gauge your effort allows you to adjust your pacing accordingly during workouts. The goal of workouts is not just to run as hard as you can but rather learn how to run at different intensities for various lengths of time. Knowing exactly how far you have to go for each interval allows for a quicker adaptation to the learned skill of perceived effort. You can also practice race pace on the track to really dial in your effort for race day and learn how to settle into the pacing.
Monitor your progress.
By adding track workouts to your training, you can duplicate the same sessions throughout a training cycle and monitor how your fitness and sense of pace are advancing. If your fitness has improved, your interval splits will show the improvements. Progress can also be measured by adding more intervals, less recovery, and increasing the pace as the workouts begin to feel easier.
Improve your mental endurance.
This may seem illogical, but the mundane nature of the track allows for an increase in focus and improves concentration. Practicing concentration in workouts allows for better execution on race day.
A glimpse into my first track workout.
We warmed up with an easy mile (4 laps) and then did some dynamic movements to open up the glutes and hips. These included:
• Crossovers/grapevine • Knee drives
• SIngle-leg toe touch • Russian kicks
Following that, were 4x400s. Keep in mind, I've had no experience with interval training on the track and so I had no expectations about what to expect from my body. The plan was to run 4x400s with a 100 meter recovery in between each one. Recovery is necessary to allow you to maintain a consistent level of performance throughout the workout. My partner instructed me to glance at my Garmin at the 200 meter mark and I was around :53 seconds. The goal time at the 200 line was 60 seconds, so I was well ahead of the goal. At the conclusion of that first 400, we hit the line at about 1:43.9 (about a 6:47 mile pace). The goal was 2:00. To be transparent here, we were both taken aback by that time and frankly thought it was perhaps a fluke that was fueled by the excitement of doing a 400 for the first time. I recovered with a 100 meter walk and as I approached the next 400 I began to jog and then as I hit the line, accelerated to run my second 400. At the 200 mark I glanced at my Garmin and I was slightly faster then the first interval. That second 400 was a 1:42.9. I repeated these intervals and recovery 2 more times with each interval being a negative split. Running the repeat 400s allowed me to run at a faster pace then I normally do and helped me to understand more about effort and speed.
To warm down, I was instructed to do an easy mile — and I was relieved. I thought to myself thank goodness I can just jog this mile out, as those 400s were so very fun and quite challenging. That last mile though... this was one of my biggest takeaways from this workout. Understanding perceived effort. As I ran that mile, I didn't glance at my watch for a few minutes as I was going easy — or so I perceived I was going easy. When I finally took a look at my pace at about a half a mile in, I was running about an 8:07 pace. I've run this pace before, but it felt nothing like it felt at that moment. At that moment, I perceived my effort was closer to a 9:00 min. mile pace as it felt so fluid and effortless. I finished that mile at an 8:00 minute pace — and it felt so freakin' easy.
Frequency of interval training?
I plan on including one interval training workout/week to compliment my runs out on the road. As a novice to these workouts, I intend on varying distance, recovery, and pace to further challenge myself and learn more about effort and consistency.
Track workouts are intended to be challenging. If you're not going to push your limits, then any benefits you could potentially gain are greatly reduced. The intent is for you to run intervals either at a consistent pace or as a progression (depending on the goals of the workout). If you find that you're continually getting slower on your intervals then you should start out at a slightly slower pace that you are capable of maintaining.
See you out there on the oval.
Check out the new move of the week video:
Single Leg Knee Drive on BOSU w/ Resistance