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3 Classic Track Workouts for Runners

Add these bread-and-butter interval workouts to your running repertoire to boost speed and endurance.

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British Olympic gold medalist Sebastian Coe once said, “I’ve always felt that long, slow distance produces long, slow runners.” To improve your run performance, you need a balance of easy days and hard, faster intervals—and there’s nowhere better to do fast interval workouts than on a track.

The purpose of these interval track sessions is largely related to the principle of “progressive overload,” which states that performance only improves with added training stress. Not only does this underscore the importance of adding interval training on top of aerobic miles, it also points to the fact that once you start these workouts, you must continue to up the ante from one session to the next. “The beautiful thing is that your body is able to evolve and adapt with added stress—otherwise your fitness plateaus,” says Beth Baker, head coach at Running Evolution in Seattle.

For track sessions to make sense within your training, interval mileage shouldn’t exceed 7–15 percent of your total weekly mileage. As your mileage increases, so will the length of your interval sessions; however, they should still constitute the same percentage of your total training. Check out the following classic track workouts and tweak the pace and number of intervals depending on your goal race and fitness level.

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Mixed Intervals

Warm-up: 15 min

» 3 x 400 meters at 15 seconds faster than 5K pace with 2 min rest

» 1,000 meters at 10 seconds faster than 5K pace with 2 min rest

» 4 x 200-meter sprints with 1 min rest

Cooldown: 10 min

Up the ante: After 2–3 weeks mastering this workout, add distance depending on your goal race. If you’re preparing for a half-Ironman or Ironman, add one to two 1,000m intervals at the same pace. For shorter distance training, add two to four 200m sprints at the end of the workout.

Yasso 800s

Warm-up: 15 min

» Take your marathon goal time and convert the hours and minutes to minutes and seconds. For instance, if your goal is 3:45, your 800-meter pace is 3 min and 45 sec.

» Begin with four 800-meters intervals with equal jogging rest in between each.

Cooldown: 10 min

Up the ante: With each passing week, add 1–2 800-meter intervals at the same pace until you reach 10 reps. If you’re looking to add a bit of easy mileage to your week, increase your warm-up and cooldown to 20–25 min.

Ladder

Warm-up: 15 min

» At 5K race pace, run 400 meters, 800 meters, 1200 meters, 800 meters, 400 meters. Give yourself 2–3 min rest in between each interval.

Cooldown: 10 min

Up the ante: After 2–3 weeks of this session, you can add distance and/or intensity. If you’re training for a longer race, top out at a 1,600m interval, meaning that you’ll run 400-800-1,200-1,600-1,200-800-400. If you are more interested in speed, consider increasing your base pace. Drop 10–15 sec from your 5K race pace and convert to fit each interval.

Find more track workouts here.