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Track Workouts To Improve Your Speed, Strength and Endurance

Whether you're a beginner or a veteran, we've got a track workout for you.

Track workouts aren’t just for sprinters or high school track and field teams; they can be useful for runners of all distances, from 5Ks and 10Ks to half marathons, marathons, and even ultras.

No matter what race distance we are training for, improving our speed to become faster runners will always be one of our training objectives. Carefully planned track workouts can help us run faster on race day.

Track workouts are interval workouts that involve bouts of faster running followed by bouts of recovery jogs, walks, or complete standing rest.

As a certified running coach, I recommend strategically adding interval workouts to a training plan after an athlete has built their initial base.

(So, if you’re entirely new to running, do a few weeks of easy running first to build your aerobic capacity and overall comfort with running. Then you’ll be ready to start adding in regular interval workouts.)

In this guide, I will discuss the details of track workouts, how to work them into your training schedule, and give you step-by-step instructions for performing some of my top track workouts.

track running workouts

What Are Track Workouts?

Track workouts are interval training sessions1Billat, L. V. (2001). Interval Training for Performance: A Scientific and Empirical Practice. Sports Medicine31(1), 13–31. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200131010-00002 that alternate between hard running and easy running or rest.

They can improve running speed and running economy,2Barnes, K. R., & Kilding, A. E. (2014). Strategies to Improve Running Economy. Sports Medicine45(1), 37–56. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0246-y develop proper running form, promote a quick leg turnover (cadence), and increase overall strength3García-Pinillos, F., Cámara-Pérez, J. C., Soto-Hermoso, V. M., & Latorre-Román, P. Á. (2017). A High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)-Based Running Plan Improves Athletic Performance by Improving Muscle Power. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research31(1), 146–153. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001473 and endurance.

These speed workouts include 200-meter and 400-meter repeats, mile repeats, ladder workouts, and even tempo runs.

The type of track workout you do will depend on your current running goal and training cycle.

Track workouts are often performed on a standard outdoor track (measuring 400 meters around) or a standard indoor track (measuring 200 meters around). These distances can vary depending on the track you have access to.

How Do I Perform A Track Workout?

Warm Up

A track workout should always include a thorough warm-up to get your muscles and joints primed and ready to go.

For your warm-up, jog at an easy pace between 10-20 minutes, depending on your fitness level and weekly mileage requirements, followed by five minutes of dynamic stretching.

Dynamic stretching running drills consist of exercises like walking lunges, leg swings, Frankenstein walks, butt kicks, high knees, and bounding.

A warm-up ensures top running performance during your track running workout. If you don’t warm up before running at a hard effort, you’ll spend your first few repetitions warming up and not be able to run at the indicated paces or effort levels.

track running workouts

The Workout

After thoroughly warming up, follow the detailed instructions for your track workout.

Let’s take a look at an example:

  • 5 x (1000 meters hard / 400 meter recovery jog)

Here, you will run 1 kilometer (two and a half laps on a standard outdoor track) at a hard effort (8 out of 10 on the rate of perceived exertion scale).

How you gauge your effort will depend on your training method: heart rate, pace, power, or rate of perceived exertion.

We will use the rate of perceived exertion in our workout examples, as some runners may not have calculated heart rate zones or race times and paces.

Follow each 1000m rep with a 400m recovery jog (between 1-2 on the RPE scale)

Repeat this five times.

Cool Down

The cool-down after your speed training track workout is as important as the warm-up.

After reps of faster running, you’ll want to gradually bring your heart and breathing rate back down to baseline. Jog or walk for 10-20 minutes after you have completed your session.

running track workouts

How Often Should I Incorporate Interval Training Into My Training Plan?

I recommend that runners with a solid base who have not done speedwork before should add only one session of track workouts per week.

Two weekly sessions are ideal for more experienced runners. Again, this will depend on where you are in your training cycle.

Do not schedule both track workouts consecutively; be sure to have a recovery run, rest day, or active recovery day between them.

If you overdo it with intense running workouts, you will increase your risk of injury and impede improvement. We want to see great results; rest is essential to that process.

How Can I Adapt Track Workouts To My Training Level?

Before we dive into my favorite track workouts for my athletes, let’s discuss the scalability of these sessions and how you can adapt each one to your fitness level, whether you are a beginner runner or an experienced runner in the middle of an advanced marathon training plan.

Here are the factors you can adjust as you see fit:

running track workouts

#1: Increase or Decrease the Number of Repetitions

In most track workouts, there is a hard work period followed by a rest period, repeated for a certain number of repetitions.

Depending on your fitness level, you can raise or lower the number of repetitions of each interval.

Example: Instead of ten 400m repeats, you can do five if you are a beginner or 12 or more if you are more experienced.

#2: Adjust the Interval Length

Whether you are working in distance or time, you can adjust the hard interval by increasing or decreasing it.

Example: Instead of running mile repeats, you can lower them to kilometers or raise them to 2K repeats.

#3: Adjust the Rest Interval

Here, you can play around with a couple of different factors.

You can either increase or decrease the distance or time of the rest interval or adjust the indicated effort level.

Example: If the rest in your 400m workout is indicated as “easy running” to recover, but you need to walk, walk! Depending on the objective of the workout and how intensely you are running the repeat, you may need to rest completely.

Play around with these different factors to find your sweet spot. But remember, these workouts are supposed to pull you out of your comfort zone so you can reap the benefits of that hard running.

running track workouts

The Best Track Workouts For Distance Runners

#1: Straights and Curves

This is a workout for a runner just starting out with track workouts and speedwork and can use it to build up to harder sessions.

  1. Warm up for 1 mile
  2. Run the straightaways on the track hard and walk the curves
  3. For starters, repeat 8-10 times, and build up to more reps
  4. Cool down for 1 mile

#2: 400m Repeats

On most outdoor tracks, 400 meters will be one lap around the track, so these are easy to keep track of.

  1. Warm up for 1-2 miles
  2. 10 x 400 meters hard (8 on the rate of perceived exertion scale, or think 5K race pace or a bit faster) / 2-3 minute recovery jog (or walk, or complete rest)
  3. Cool down for 1-2 miles

#3: 800m Repeats

Now, let’s double it.

You’ll feel a big difference between 400- and 800-meter intervals. The 400s will feel more explosive, and the 800s will be more of an endurance workout where you really have to hold on and sustain that hard pace.

  1. Warm up for 1-2 miles
  2. 4-5 x 800 meters hard (8 on the rate of perceived exertion scale, or think 5K pace or a bit faster) / 3-minute recovery jog (or walk, or complete rest)
  3. Cool down for 1-2 miles
running track workouts

#5: Ladder Track Workout

You can run these intervals anywhere between 6-8 on the RPE scale depending on your fitness level.

  1. Warm up for 1-2 miles
  2. 400m hard / 400m recovery jog
  3. 800m hard / 400m recovery jog
  4. 1200m hard / 400m recovery jog
  5. 1600m hard / 400m recovery jog
  6. 2000m hard / 400m recovery jog
  7. Cool down for 1-2 miles

You can also run this ladder by starting with the longer distances and working your way down to the shortest distance.

Fartleks (speed play), tempos runs, and race-pace runs can also be done on a track to run in a controlled environment.

Track workouts are an efficient way to add quality work to your training plan and see impressive improvements.

To ensure you don’t over or under-do it in terms of training, check out our very own database of marathon training plans for your next big race:

References

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Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

1 thought on “Track Workouts To Improve Your Speed, Strength and Endurance”

  1. So happy to have ‘run’ across this article.
    Not only does it give me lots of ideas for planning track workouts for some folks who are new to the track and/or running, it makes ME want to head out for a track workout… which is saying a lot!

    Reply

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