How triathletes can make the most of running sessions on the track

Expert tips to improve your run

Training sessions on the track can allow you to get the maximum out of the time you put in, so how can you ensure you get the most out of your track training sessions? Triathlete Will Clarke tells you how.

Conducive to quality training

Whether you’re training on a cold and gloomy winter night or a warm and sunny summer afternoon, the track should always have it’s place in your training programme. There is a certain mentality that goes along with the running on the track —  it’s a place that is conducive to fast running and you’ll always get the most out of yourself here. Of course the track doesn’t lie, it’s usually a standard distance of 400m, and quite often it’s a nice soft surface without the hazards or interruptions you get from running anywhere else.

When I think of track running I remember the times when I’d be pelting it around a group of anywhere from 4-30 people. I used to run quite often with Loughborough University Athletics Club, a prestigious club, and those were some of my favourite training sessions I ever did. The coach George Gandy used to set us a session where we would run continuously for 30 minutes, doing 200m at borderline maximum effort and the other 200m at steady pace. By the end of the session some of us would be getting down to around 10k.

Great winter training

By turning up to that session every week during the winter I got into my best running shape ever. It was motivating to run with a great bunch of guys who were a similar level; it was a session in the evening, so in the midst of winter it was a very productive session that I could easily tick off and enjoy in the dark, and I could just focus on trying to get a little bit better each week. Whoever you live, I’d recommend trying to find a training group that trains on the track that you can join.

You may be concerned that the winter time is the wrong period to be using the track, or perhaps I’m not going to run that fast in the race so what is the point? You certainly have to put in some easy base work in the winter for a successful summer, but the truth is that the winter is a great time to run fast, it increases your engine’s capacity and pulls every other threshold up with it, so race pace will begin to feel much easier and you’ll get stronger.

Get used to running fast

Running fast is a skill that you have to learn and you can only improve with practice week in week out. That said, I do believe in the winter it’s best that you keep the sessions short and sweet so you’re not dragging yourself off the track at the end of each session. That icing on the cake is probably best saved for the summer.

The other beauty of track running is you can train with anyone, you just have to make the session work well for you. Just having someone else on the track with you will help motivate you. If you’re significantly faster than the people your are training with then there are many ways you can work it, for example you could set them off 10 seconds earlier, you could run 400m and they could go for 300m and cut the corner off.

Example track session

A great example of a session where you have many different abilities running together is to run 16 x 70 seconds and you go one every two minutes. I’d get through around 450m on each occasion in that time and some of the girls I would train with would get to 350m, but we could jog back to the start and start the next reps together.

I find that when you get on the track your mentality changes, you’re more willing to push hard and get the most out of yourself compared to if you did a session on the road. You’ve got no excuses and no hazards to contend with. It’s a place of pain, but it’s very productive and so good for your performance.

It’s easy to see the lap times and recognise the improvements, so you can usually leave the track with a good feeling about your training. Even if it didn’t go as well as you’d expect you can always hope to come back next time and see some improvements.

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