How to Use Track Workouts to Boost Your Endurance
Whether you're a total beginner or a seasoned runner your local running track could be the key to giving your running a serious endurance boost.
We spoke to 3 top athletes Hannah Viner, the 10K club racer, Max Willcocks the 100-mile ultra-runner, and Mark Yeoman, the top marathon distance triathlete, to get their tips on how putting in the miles on the track gives them the edge they need to just keep on going.
What are the benefits of training sessions on the track?
Track sessions "build up speed because of the surface and the controlled environment. It also allows you to measure times and distance accurately which can be useful as a gauge of fitness" explains Hannah.
Training in a group on the track gives Hannah a great confidence boost "as the workload can be shared more easily than on the road. The sessions seem less painful and more successful."
Similarly, Mark explains “it’s common to do a track session with your club or mates, so you have the added bonus of competition against similar or higher level athletes.”
Road, trail, track and even treadmill naturally all have their pros and cons. Mark “strongly believes that you need to have all types of surfaces in your training” to get the most from each.
With the track you can "closely monitor your effort and pace over a set distance. Out on the road you may have to stop because of a car pulling out.” For Mark, “the track is ideal for monitoring progress and reducing these variables.”
The road and trail have their benefits too “it takes more concentration on the track to avoid that sense of going nowhere and getting distracted” which for Mark, ultimately, is the key in building your mental resilience.
What Does a Typical Training Session on the Track Look Like?
HANNAH VINER -
Hannah Viner is currently ranked 1st Under 20 in the UK for 10k and came 1st Under 20 for 10,000m on track in 2015.
A key part of the Highgate Harriers 2016 South of England Road Relay Championship winning team she is also the founder of Left Spike and a part of our awesome Runners Need Camden team.
If you're looking to smash your 10K PB, this is for you.
Hannah splits her sessions by season, “depending on the time of year, a typical session for me on the track would be around 6-8k of effort in the winter and a lot shorter in the summer.”
A winter session leading up to a 10k road race would be:
1k hard effort, 200m jog x8
In the spring or summer after the cross-country season “the sessions focus a lot more on speed” as she leads into track and road. Good for “speed endurance” and “practising dealing with lactic in a race” a summer session will look like:
300 metres, 60 seconds rest x4
600 metres, 90 seconds rest x2
300 metres, 2 minutes’ rest x4
MARK YEOMAN -
Triathlete and coach Mark Yeoman is the founder of mySMARTcoach and Viceroys Triathlon Club. He won the Windsor Olympic Distance Triathlon and Windsor Sprint Distance Triathlon in 2013 and 2014, and finished 6th in two tri World Championships. He has entered and run the London Marathon four times, with an incredible PB of 3:03.
For Mark it’s all about the pyramid sessions “the track comes into my training when I’m looking to develop speed and speed endurance ahead of the forthcoming season." A typical track workout for him is:
1200 metres, 2 minutes rest x2
1000 metres, 90 seconds rest x2
800 metres, 60 seconds rest x2
600 metres, 45 seconds rest x2
400 metres, 30 seconds rest x2
As you build up your endurance you can mix up the sessions by going in reverse, or changing the repetitions from 2 up to 3 or 4 or down to 1 if you're short on time.
As the season draws closer Mark “reduces the distance but increases the speed, working on my cadence”.
Instead of 16 sets of 400 metres he’ll break it down to:
400 metres, 30 seconds rest x8
400 metres sprint, 100 metres easy jog x8
With this method, “the fitter you get, the faster you get” making it easy to up your game by adding another 400 metres, 30 seconds rest x2 for example to make a total of 20 sets of 400 metres.
MAX WILLCOCKS -
Ultra-runner Max Willcocks won the Thames Path 100 in 2015 and currently holds the record for furthest distance run on a treadmill in 12 hours at a whopping 93.47 miles. In 2016, he is entering the Sierra Leone Marathon and the TNF Lavaredo Ultra Trail, a 62 mile, 5,500m ascent of the Italian Dolomites.
For all things endurance he’s your man.
His track sessions are varied, one day he’ll set off to do 400 metres, 50 seconds rest and the next he’ll plug his headphones in and run an “easy” (his words) 16 miles.
To you and me running 64 laps of the track is almost absurd but for Max “running without interruption, obstruction or deviation is my therapy. It’s as close as I can get to running with my eyes closed.”
With an almost euphoria he explains, “the best thing about track running is that each and every stride is exactly how you want it. You never have to worry about where you’re putting your feet – only that you’re still moving them.”
So how does he do it?
“With the correct music and attitude” and the knowledge that time spent on the track corrects your mind-set for racing. The mental resilience needed to remember “that physically you may not be going anywhere, but metaphorically you’re building on all the right metrics to achieving your goals.”
It’s always good, however, to have a series of benchmark sessions that you’re familiar with so you can check up on your performance.
His toughest benchmark session is a flat out 2400 metres, or 6 laps; “it’s gloriously painful but a great indicator of fitness and threshold capability, as you try to maintain a constant speed each lap.”
To build up to a tempo mile focus on one session a week of:
400 metres, 2 minutes x10
Or, another way of looking at it is running a lap every 2 minutes. The time that you don’t use from those two minutes is your rest period.
Ultimately, the faster you run, the more rest you get by working harder.
How Does Training on the Track Optimise your Performance on the Road?
We’re not all Olympians, and the track doesn’t reflect the realities of a road race, so how does the track really help your performance
For so many runners their racing downfall is starting the run too quickly and burning out. If you look at your split times from a recent race and see your splits getting slower and slower, Mark notes you “can avoid this by spending time on the track, working on pace over a controllable distance and learning to hold back.”
A run on the track will “enable you to monitor your efforts or pace over set and accurate distances, such as 1000m or 400m” so you can learn your speed and pace judgement. Mark advises “doing negative split efforts on the track – where you run the second half of the set distance faster than the first - to help you control pace and give you the confidence to push on so that you can finish your race strong.”
To build up from 5k Hannah believes it’s important to have speed, and “training on the track is perfect for building up speed on the road.” If you’re racing, “sometimes the difference between winning and coming second can be the confidence to take the race on. If you know you’ve got that speed to see the race through, it can give you that extra boost you need to hit the front or even hang in the pack and pick your moment.”
If it’s endurance you’re after then “first and foremost, if you can make yourself train when you’re only ever 200m away from where you started and where you’ll finish, then you’re in good stead to keep going when things get tough in a race.”
Ultimately your performance is down to you. You’re accountable for “every mile on the track; the conditions are perfect and you can run exactly at the speed you want for as long as you want, whether it’s fast or slow.”
You May Also Like: