Head to your local athletics track to try these five classic sessions to run faster…

Stay on track to race faster

When you’re sitting at home watching a major athletics competition, the running track looks like the coolest place in the world to be. Stepping on to one in real life, though, can feel intimidating – the trackside seats are usually empty but you still feel as though your running prowess is about to be publicly tested.

It’s a shame that tracks aren’t more well used because they are truly built for purpose. The surface is perfect for running fast, with a slight bounce that helps to spring you along and protects your body from the higher impact of running fast. Of course, your distances on a track are pre-measured so it’s much easier to do complicated interval sessions. And then there’s the psychological effect of stepping over those white lines: nothing says you’re serious about a session like doing it on a track. The best and least intimidating way to train on a track is with a club – this also keeps costs down as you’ll usually pay a flat hire fee. Once you’re there, try one of these classic track-based sessions to pep up your running speed.

1. 400M REPS

No matter what distance you’re racing, a session of 400m reps is a great training tool. The idea isn’t really to run them flat out. Instead you’re aiming to run your reps at a consistently hard pace. That can take a while to work out and will vary depending on how many reps you plan to do. Start with a 10-minute jogging warm-up (on or off the track), then try for two sets of 4x400m with two minutes recover between reps and five minutes recovery between sets.

2. THE PYRAMID

You may have done a pyramid session on the road or as part of a swimming set, and the principle here is the same, but it’s so simple on the track. You run reps at building distances and slightly slowing speeds, so you might run 200m, 400m, 800m, 1200m, 800m, 400m, 200m. The recovery stays the same after each rep, but this is a tough exercise both in fitness and in terms of judging your pace.

3. METRIC MILE

Running a hard mile is a brilliant progress marker and a great interval in its own right, especially good for preparing you to run a fast 5km for a sprint distance tri. Try to test yourself over 1500m, or if you prefer over four laps of the track (just about a mile), every four weeks or so.

4. 200:200

For a fun but painful session, try running half the track hard and half easy for as long as you can keep it up (and keep your times consistent). The reps are short enough to be useful top-end pace builders for athletes racing any distance.

5. SKILLS AND DRILLS

Running tracks aren’t just great for pure running. Because the surface is so forgiving it’s the perfect place to do a plyometrics session: explosive jumping exercises to increase functional strength and power in your running muscles. You can also make use of hurdles or just use the track for walking and running drills that will improve your form – this is where your coach can really help you out.

MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU: TAKE THE COACH

To make the most of your time on a track you should ideally go to a coached session. Many tri clubs organise weekly track running sessions, sometimes for a small additional fee, and if you don’t have a tri club near you then you’ll also be welcome to train with your local running club, who will almost certainly run a session once or twice a week.

PICTURE: Corbis

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