The Best Workouts to Prepare for Track Season

A group of track runners complete a workout on the track, smiling.

Whether you’re coming straight from a long cross country season or trying to stay in shape for another sport, track season is quickly approaching. Before jumping into high-intensity track workouts, be sure to give yourself time to recover from your previous season. Runners often have a tendency to go, go, go, go. But, as performance coach Steve Magness likes to say, strength plus rest equals growth.

Whether you’re gearing up for your indoor track season or you want to get a head start on the outdoor season, the following workouts will help get you ready to top the podium or hit a new personal best. Here are the best workouts to prepare for your best year yet in track and field.

1. Fartleks:

A girl runs down the home stretch during a workout on the track.

Fartlek runs, the Swedish word meaning “speed play,” are a great way to ease back into running fast after time off. They can be mixed into long runs or done during a short workout. After a warm up, a good place to start is by running hard for one minute, then slowing to a jog for the next minute. Alternate running one minute “on,” and one minute “off.” No set pace has to be chosen for the hard portions, but aim to have a consistent effort on each hard portion of the workout. If one minute feels too long, shorten the hard portion of the workout and extend the rest portion. This workout is a good option that can be customized for sprinters, mid-distance runners, and distance runners alike. Just adjust the number of repeats to fit with your current fitness level.

2. Timed Hill repeats:

Hill repeats allow you to work on speed and strength with less impact than running on flat ground. Depending on where you live, hills might be hard to find. If you live in a flat area, try to find a hill, a bridge or an overpass that has a gradual incline for this workout. Make your own circuit of running uphill as hard as you can for 10, 20 or 30 seconds. Once you make it to the top, pause for a moment before you slowly jog back down. When doing this workout with my track team, the sprinters take longer rest to focus on power and speed rather than endurance.

3. Broken 800/400-meter repeats:

This workout is a great way to work on speed while also working your aerobic engine. Sprint for 400 meters, then take a 400-meter jogging recovery. You can break this down further to focus on 200-meter sprints followed by a 200-meter recovery. The number of sets should depend on how the athlete feels while doing these, but two to three sets is a good place to start. After a long school day, it’s not helpful to dig yourself into the well too much. Keep in mind that the rest for the sprinters will be longer to focus on running fast while fully recovered.

Two boys catch their breath during a track workout.

4. Strength Training

Medicine Ball Circuit:

Strength training is beneficial year round, whether you’re training for track, cross country or another sport. The following circuit should be done with a medicine ball. It’s typically done with a partner but can also be done alone. The goal is to build up to 20 reps per throw and get to three sets. As you build your strength, start with about eights reps of the following for three sets:

  • Overhead throw. Hold the medicine ball above your head, gently throw it at the wall and catch it.
  • Soccer throw. Bring the ball behind your head, throw it at the wall and catch it.
  • Chest pass. Make sure you’re standing an arm’s length from the wall. Bring the ball toward your chest before throwing it at the wall and catching it.
  • Rotations. Face the wall straight on and bring the ball toward your right hip. Throw it against the wall, catch it, and repeat with the opposite hip. Repeat this exercise while standing perpendicular to the wall instead of straight on.

Leg Circuit:

This circuit will increase your balance, strength and power to get you ready for track season. Aim to complete 20 repetitions of each, at one rep per second. There are four exercises within the set:

  • Squats. Keeping your feet flat on the ground, shoulder width apart, squat down while keeping your knees behind your toes. Come up, thrusting your hips forward.
  • Alternating forward lunges. While standing in place, step forward with your right leg, bending it at a 90-degree angle. Your left arm should come up while your right leg is forward.
  • Alternating step ups. Find a sturdy box or a set of stairs. Start with your right foot on the box or stair and your left foot on the ground. Putting all your weight on your right foot, push off the box or stair while fully straightening your right leg. Repeat with the opposite foot.
  • Jump squats. Similar to the squats described above, except instead of simply squatting down and standing up, explode up out of your squat by jumping into the air.

Check out more leg workouts for runners here.

Two girls high-five after a track workout.

While the above workouts are designed to help you get in shape for track season, don’t underestimate the importance of rest, nutrition and hydration. And remember to have fun! We have a long winter and spring season ahead of us.

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