Don’t fear the track, embrace it. I have to admit that after yesterday’s post I was a little surprised that it seemed I was in the far minority when it came to actually liking the track. *Gasp* Now, I know that red carpet can seem a little daunting but really, there is no need to run away. Why all the track hate?
Sure, I can see it, the track doesn’t lie. There are no hills to explain away a slow mile here or there, you can’t exactly hide either. Nope, you’re full frontal on the track…exposed. It’s easy to get too wrapped up in the splits, numbers, and monotonous laps but you can do that anywhere. To be fair, the watch doesn’t lie either.
So all this track hate, or I guess track phobia, seems to be an issue begging to be addressed. There are SO many reasons to hit up the oval regardless of whether you plan on racing on it:
* Speed. I’ll pause for you to get all the shudders and groans out if you must, but I’ll say this: it is INCREDIBLY easy to get stuck in a pace rut. Guilty as charged on that one, I didn’t get the nickname ‘One-Speed Chock’ for nothing, but the only way to get out of a rut is to push and pry yourself out of it. If you don’t ever change anything nothing will ever, well, change. Pick at least one day a week and denote it as speed play day…you don’t have to make it too regimented if that scares you off at first. Start simple: warm-up and then alternate slow/fast 200′s…start with 8 laps total and for those 8×200 meters of pick-ups let your stride open up, relax, and the let speed take over. Finish with a cool-down of course. If it feels foreign at first, that’s okay, after a while it will feel a little better…then a little bit more…etc. (Racers-For those already in love with the track and racing, this 200 meter workout can be an excellent tune-up before race day, think two or three days before…the difference is for you really do hit those 200′s fast!)
* Pace says what? If you live near a track, during one of your regular runs plan your route so you can do one of those middle miles on the track. Check to see what your pace is without looking down at the splits, try and test how well your pace gauge is. This is helpful for a few reasons: 1) if it’s an easy day you can really check yourself and see if you are in fact running the right pace for you to recover 2) you want to be able to become better at ‘sensing’ what a certain pace feels like.
* Fast finish. Doing pick-up runs, or adding in a quick, up-tempo mile at the end of some of your steady runs is an excellent way to ‘sneak’ in some quality running that won’t tax your body so much that you’ll be too tired for your next hard workout. Doing just one fast mile at the end of some of your easy runs isn’t enough ‘hard’ running to really zap your legs, and if you do that enough those ‘extra’ miles of quality will add up. Pick a day, do your steady run and end so that you can finish your last mile on the track and run it close to your 10k or half-marathon race pace.
* Tempo. Yes, do your entire tempo on a track…it can seem monotonous but there are people out there doing upwards of 20 miles on a treadmill, you can’t tell me they can’t handle circles. Not only will you probably surprise yourself with a faster time than you’re doing on the roads, this can do wonders for the ego, but you can also use this time to work on that little pace recognition I was talking about. Fine tuning that inner metronome will work wonders come race day; it can help save your race if you are able to sense if you’re going out too fast, or too slow.
Tips to get you spooning with the track…still not convinced that the track is for you?
* The Right-Away: If you do a sizable amount of running on the track, do half of it running the ‘correct’ way, counter-clockwise, and then the other half running in the clockwise direction. Be mindful if others are on the track and maybe run in the outside lanes for this ‘wrong’ way running. The reason for this is that always turning left can lead to some imbalances, and it’s good to keep things even if you can. This also can help break up the run and beat boredom.
* Sans Watch: On the track it’s easy to just run for distance so you can chuck the watch. You can then make sure you’re running true recovery pace and off of feel for your easy days and it relieves the pressure if you get too stressed on hard workouts; just run hard.
* Get company: Getting faster is possible with the track AND with people for those hard days…can’t say it enough: “If you want to get better, train with someone better than you.”
* Baby Steps. Bill Murray had it right, the only way to get over a phobia is to expose yourself to it and baby steps work. Just get your bums out there and I promise once you see the improvements through speed play in your race times you’ll start loving your track time!
1) Are you at least a wee bit more convinced you could like the track? Is there a way you can go out on a limb and proclaim at least ONE way you will utilize the track more?
2) If you already do use the track, what’s your favorite workout or run on it?
Tempo runs. I’m a dork and actually looked forward to my 10 mile tempo runs on the track…no lie.
3) Are you plumb sick of me shoving track love down your throat? If so, would I make you like it more if I added in there is Track Town Pizza in Eugene, OR you should hit up…it at least has Track and Pizza together, so maybe it will work as a little subliminal message to like both as equals??