For most of us, the idea of track brings back bad memories from grade school. But track is actually a great tool to get fitter and faster, and it can even be fun. Many Fleet Feet Sports locations provide group track sessions throughout the year.
Even if you're not training for a race, making track practice a part of your weekly routine can be a great way to develop speed and incinerate more calories. But if you haven't hit the track in decades, it can be intimidating. Here's what you need to know before you go.
Know Your Numbers
Most tracks are 400 meters around, which is roughly equivalent to 0.25 miles. Two laps around a track is 800 meters or a half mile; four laps around a track equates to 1600 meters or one mile.
Tune Into Your Surroundings
When you're gearing up to run fast, it's tempting to pop in the ear-buds, and blast your "fast-running" tunes. But that's not a good idea. On the track, with many different people trying to attain top speed, it's important to be aware of other runners coming up behind you. You don't want to cause a painful collision.
Fuel Up and Drink Up Before You Go
Make sure that you're well-fueled and hydrated before you head to the track. Dehydration can drag down performance and contribute to fatigue. Stick with carb-rich foods that give you a boost without upsetting your stomach. Fat and fiber take longer to digest; to avoid GI distress keep your pre-workout snack to less than 10 grams of each per serving.
Brush Up on Your Track Terms
Coaches often use the term "intervals" interchangeably with the term "repeats" to refer to workouts where you alternate between fast and slow bouts of running. Technically, the term "intervals" refers to the time you spend walking, jogging, or resting between bouts of fast running. In "interval" workouts, you rest or walk between bouts of fast running to let your heart rate recover, and regain energy you need to run fast again.
Warm Up Before You Go
Your muscles need to warm up before you try to hit top speed. Before you start the fast work, run at an easy pace for at least a mile or two to get blood circulating to your muscles and raise your heart rate gradually. If you try to sprint out of the gates, you'll likely get injured, and tire out before you circle the track.
Take a Rest Day
Don't do tough workouts back to back; that's a recipe for injury. Be sure to follow your track workout with a rest day or a day of running or cross-training at an easy effort. The muscles, bones, joints, and aerobic system need time to recover from tough workouts so that they can adapt and get stronger. Avoid doing a tough workout like a tempo run or a long run in the one to two days before your track session.