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What You Need To Know About Indoor Track

A student athlete and indoor track competitor sheds light on the somewhat elusive sport.

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“Do you still run outside, in the cold?” I was asked recently. It was 20 degrees outside and I was waiting for my Garmin to load. I smiled as I pulled on my gloves.

“Yes,” I replied. “I’ll run in just about any weather. But I don’t race outside during the winter.”

I proceeded to explain the concept of indoor track, something with which that gentleman—and many others—are unfamiliar. It’s easy to miss, particularly because it’s smooshed between its famous siblings: cross country and outdoor track. Plus, it’s often seen as an endeavor for only the elite or student athletes. As a student athlete and indoor track competitor, I’m here to break down the misconceptions about indoor track. Here’s what you need to know:

1. It Has A Legitimate Season

High school indoor track may or may not be considered a sport, depending on the state. It is most definitely a sport in college, though. In fact, indoor track is a vital part of many athletes’ training. Yes, indoor track does act as preparation for the outdoor track season, but it’s not second-rate. It has a season of its own, and offers great competitive opportunities.

2. That Season Is Short

I’m not complaining about Christmas and New Year’s, but the holiday season certainly disrupts the indoor track season. Typically, indoor track meets start in December, break for the holidays and resume in mid-January. By the first week of March, indoor track is over and outdoor track begins.

3. Lap Distances Are Different

Although indoor tracks differ, a standard loop is 200 meters around (instead of the 400m distance typical for outdoor track). Running twice as many laps seems daunting at first, but keep in mind: they go quickly. The short lap distance also means that you pass the spectators more often. For better or worse, you have more frequent feedback and cheering from the crowd. Usually, that’s a big boost for distance runners in particular.

4. Race Distances Are Different

As if the lap distance is not enough of an adjustment, indoor track presents a variety of different distances. It all depends on the specific meet, but you can find race distances like the 500m dash and the 3000m run. Sprinters can expect to run the 60m run instead of the 100m, since indoor tracks are shorter.

5. Your Lungs Will Burn After Racing

For must runners, the dry air of an indoor track is a shock to the system. Your lungs will probably feel the burn afterwards, more so if you’re running a long-distance race. But as you’re coughing up a lung on your post-race cool down, you can be grateful you weren’t racing in the 20-degree, snowy outdoors.

6. Your Calves Will Need Some Extra TLC

For mid- to long-distance runners, an indoor track race is upwards of 10 laps. The result is a lot of stress on your calves and ankles, as they are constantly turning and adjusting. If you plan on trying an indoor track race, or an entire season, take the time to roll out your calf muscles and stay loose.

If indoor track is a new concept to you, you aren’t alone. Now that you know about it, I encourage you look at it as a fun, competitive opportunity. There are many indoor track meets that allow unattached runners to enter. If you’re looking for a unique race opportunity this winter—and are tired of the cold—it’s something to consider. Indoor track is a lot of fun, and if you opt to race something you’ve never done before, like a 3000m or 60m race, you’ll automatically get a personal best!


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