For some, it’s a perfectly harmless oval; for others, it’s a symbol of torture. What side are you on?
Whether we enjoy it or not, speed work is a necessary part of most runners’ race training plans. Mixing up our pace by running faster has a lot of advantages. Speedwork builds strength because fast running recruits more fast-twitch muscles than slower-paced runs do. It also increases your aerobic capacity because when you run faster, your heart beats faster to get oxygen to your muscles faster; that leads to a stronger heart and more efficient oxygen use.
Knowing what to do in those lanes can seem a little daunting, so we polled a few regular tracksters to get their favorite workouts.
Eric Smith of Charlotte Running Club is no stranger to the track. In addition to his own speedwork, he leads a track workout group every Tuesday at Quail Hollow Middle School. It’s open to anyone.
The workouts that Eric suggests starting with are these:
2 x 1600 (4 laps) intervals with 800m (2 laps) recovery
2-4 x 1200m (3 laps) intervals with 400m (1 lap) recovery
5-10 x 400m (1 lap) with 400m (1 lap) recovery
Eric reminds us to always warm up with about 10-15 minutes of easy running and to be sure to cool down with the same afterward. “You’ll find the workouts to be challenging but satisfying when you find yourself running faster after the 3rd or 4th session,” he says.
A lot of runners have heard of the next workout — the ol’ Yasso 800s. The idea with this drill is that running a series of up to 10, fast 800-meter intervals alternated with short rest periods will help you estimate the effort and speed of running a marathon at your target pace.
For example, if you want to run a 3 hour and 30-minute marathon, you would target a 3 minute and 30 second 800. Simple, right? One of the Novant Health Marathon Ambassadors, Arun Kalikadavil, likes this one when he’s focused on speed and is able to build up to it. “The average of 10 X 800s was truly the closest measure to test my goal race time with a level of confidence,” he says.
Meeting up at the track can feel nostalgic if you ever ran in school. Now that you have a few good workouts, channel your inner speedster and get out there!