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Your First Track Workout

Experienced runners will tell you that the two most important workouts for marathon training are the weekly Long Run and the weekly Track Workout. We've discussed Long Runs in other Blogs, but here, we discuss Track Workouts:

Track running serves two purposes. First, it provides an exact measurable distance for you to time yourself and set timing goals. And, if you write your times down from week to week you can track your progression. Second, track workouts provide a flat surface for you to run fast and not worry about auto/bike traffic, hills, etc. Sprinting may seem counter-intuitive for running a marathon, but training your fast twitch muscle fibers to stride longer and contract quicker will make you run more efficiently, and therefore, faster over longer distances. Performing several short bursts of hard efforts also will raise your heart-rate well out of your comfort zone which, in turn, will raise your anaerobic threshold, making a slower pace feel even easier.

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There are a myriad of track workouts that can be performed, but two of the simplest and most popular are as follows:

Warm Up: Start with an easy jog for 10 to 15 minutes, then do two laps of "straights and turns"--this means accelerate on the straights to a fast pace and slow back down to your easy pace around the turns. ** Get more training tips. 

Main Set: Without stopping after your warm up, go right into your main track workout set.

Do 6 to 8 x 800's (two laps around a 400 meter track = half mile) with one lap easy jog after each 800. These should be done in a descending fashion, meaning your first 800 should be just a little faster than your warm up pace and each 800 thereafter should be run slightly faster. For example, someone training for a marathon who runs a 10K at 10 minute pace could start with half mile repeats with time goals of 5:00, 4:50, 4:40, 4:35, 4:30, 4:25.

If you have no idea whatsoever regarding pacing and setting time goals for your first track workout, then just go on effort level and keep a record of your times (you'll need a lap button on your wristwatch, so you can press it and it will store your time after each half mile -- most Timex, Polar and Garmin watches have this function). "Running on effort level" means if running as fast as physically possible for you is 100 percent, try to start your first 800 at 60 percent effort and work your way down so the last one is at 90 to 95 percent.

Your first couple of track workouts should never be done at 100 percent. End each track workout with 5 minutes very easy jog and stretching for 10 minutes thereafter. Ice any portion of your body that feels sore when you return home--no need to ice more than 15 minutes.

Another interval workout to be performed at the track are mile repeats. Instead of running 6 to 8 half miles, try running 3 or 4 one mile repeats (four times around the track). Do the same and descend through each with a quicker time than the previous with your last effort being the fastest of all. Again, be sure to warm up and cool down afterward, stretch, and ice if necessary.

The day after a hard track workout, it's best to either cross train with an aerobic activity that doesn't use your legs, or, do an easy spin on a stationary bike for 20 to 30 minutes to remove some of the lactate buildup which will occur.

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