Friday, January 27, 2017

Need a Track for Speed Work? Pshaw!

Not doing speed work as a part of your weekly running because you don't have access to a track? Pshaw! You don't need a track!

I hear it frequently from runners. "I don't do speed work because I don't have access to a track." It's a common misconception. Because speed workout mimics most track events such as 800s or mile repeats, many runners think speed work needs to be done on a track.  Well, it doesn't.

Except for two weeks of vacation, I do a weekly speed workout with my RUNegades running group year-round! That's 50 workouts. None of those 50 workouts take place on a track. Really, all you need is a fairly straight stretch of greenway, even a parking lot will do.

You do need to think a little out of the box, but it can be done and be done very effectively. Not only is it effective, it breaks the boredom that track running often brings. For some workouts such as 400s, 800s, 1200s, mile repeats, you may need to measure and mark some distance points, but there are a ton of timed workouts that do not need specific distances marked.

For workouts like 800s or distance-based ladders or pyramids, I'll use chalk or cones to mark various distances. For 400s or 800s, I'll just put an orange cone at the beginning, end, or turnaround points. For runs with varying distances such as ladders or pyramids, I'll usually chalk every 200m. It takes a little prep time, but it works well.

But there are many workouts that are time-based that a runner can program into their GPS watch, use an interval timer, or a trusty ole stopwatch.

One of the benefits of time-based speed workouts, particularly when used with a group of varying paces, is that everyone is running the exact same amount of time. Some runners may cover more or less distance than other runners based on their pace, but everyone starts and stops at the same time. This is great because newer or slower runners won't feel like they're holding up the pack and faster more seasoned runners won't feel held back. It's a win/win.

For most of my time-based speed workouts, I have my runners complete them in a circular fashion such as around a parking lot or I'll have them do an out-n-back stretch of greenway. This works great not only because it keeps the runners in close proximity (like on a track), it also lets the runners continuously see each other. After several minutes into a workouts, runners are spread out continuously passing each other which enables them to support and cheer each other on. Awesome to see. Fast, seasoned runners get inspired by the determination of the slower, newer runners and the slower, newer runners get inspired by the seeing what the faster, more seasoned runners are able to do.

Below are some great Time-Based Non-Track Workouts to try:
Note: It's best to begin all speed workouts with an easy 1-mile warm-up run and end the workout with an easy 1-mile cool-down run.

90/60s
5 x  (Run 90 secs hard / Run 60 secs easy)
Take a 2-3 min recovery walk
5 x  (Run 90 secs hard / Run 60 secs easy)

30-20-10s
5 x (Run 30 secs very slowly / Run 20 seconds at moderate pace / Sprint 10 secs)
2-min recovery jog
5 x (Run 30 secs very slowly / Run 20 seconds at moderate pace / Sprint 10 secs)
2-min recovery jog

Up/Down Fartleks
Run 1-min hard / Run 1-min easy
Run 2-min hard / Run 1-min easy
Run 3-min hard / Run 1-min easy
Run 2-min hard / Run 1-min easy
Run 1-min hard / Run 1-min easy
Take a 2-3 min recovery walk
Run 1-min hard / Run 1-min easy
Run 2-min hard / Run 1-min easy
Run 3-min hard / Run 1-min easy
Run 2-min hard / Run 1-min easy
Run 1-min hard / Run 1-min easy

Below are some Distance-Based Non-Track Workouts to try:
Note: It's best to begin all speed workouts with an easy 1-mile warm-up run and end the workout with an easy 1-mile cool-down run.

Wind Sprints

Staggered Hill Repeats
Find  hill that's approximately a 1/2-mile in length. (Can be shorter, but a 1/2 mile works great.). Doesn't have to be extremely steep. A steady incline will work nicely.
Run up the hill for 30 secs / Turn and walk down the hill for 30 secs.
Repeat this run up / walk down staggered process until you reach the top of the hill or the 1/2-mile mark. Then easy jog back down the hill and repeat for a second cycle.

Over the course of about 4 months, I take my RUNegades group through 16 different non-track speed workouts. The above workouts are just a few of what we do. Give them a try and let me know what you think!
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