Director of Cross Country and Track and Field at Northern Arizona University Mike Smith provides his tips to help beginners tackle the trails.
Never been to the track? There comes a first time for every runner and there is no need to fear the oval. We have assembled everything you need to know from lane rules to distances and how to incorporate just enough speed work to love it out there! Ready, set, run…
- The summer is usually a great time to head to the high school track because the students will not be using it. However, even when school is in session there may be plenty of time before school starts, afterward and even during the day when you can make good use of it without interrupting gym class or a track meet. Call the school or just visit at the same day and time you plan on going to get a lay of the land. Also note if there is easy entry, bathrooms and water.
- When you go to run, make sure you have plenty of water, lightweight shoes (if you have a choice) and a positive attitude.
- There is usually little or no shade so plan your timing and outfit accordingly.
- Typically walkers should be in the outside lanes and runners take the inside loop. If you’re the first one there, be sure to run in lane one (closest to the infield). If not, just be polite and go with the flow.
Do the math
- One lap around the track is equal to 400 meters, two laps is 800 meters and so on. If you’re doing a workout, it’s important to know how many laps you’re planning to run before you start.
- Pace yourself. Track workouts usually include speed for a reason—they are flat and you can go fast—but don’t start out at a blazing speed, especially if you’re there for repeats. Warm up as you would with any other training run and ease into your pace. One 400 meter lap longer than it looks!
Physical and mental workouts
- The track is a perfect place to hone your mental strength. Leave the headphones at home and try to tune into your pace and breathing. If you’re trying to hit certain splits (the same time for the same distance covered) zone into exactly what you feel like when you’re running your goal pace and see if you can mimic it each time.
- There are endless numbers of workouts you can do depending on your goal distance. Choose one that makes sense for you or, try the one below.
- Most workouts include recovery laps you may either slow run or walk. Try to not stop completely and at least walk your recovery before your next laps.
First-Time Track Runner Workout
Warm Up: Easy run for 10-15 minutes
Run 400: One lap around the track, at 10K pace (going fast but not all out). Check your time as you slow run/jog/walk another 400 meters (one lap)
Run 800: Two laps at about half marathon pace. If you don’t know what that is, keep a steady pace that you could have a conversation with someone but you wouldn’t want to. Check your time at the finish and easy run/jog/walk for 400 meters (one lap).
Repeat: run the 400 and see if you can match your time, take the recovery lap and then run the 800 and see if you can match that time as well.
Recover/Cool-down: 1,600 meters/1 mile (4 laps) at an easy pace.
Congratulations. You have just successfully completed your first track workout!