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3 Track Workouts To Get Faster, Run Longer And Lose Weight

Make like a world-class sprinter and use a local oval to chase down your goals with these 3 three-week track workouts.

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runner on track

Stomping ground of the fastest humans in the world, the track is designed to showcase speed. However, the oval isn’t just for Olympians gunning to shoot down world records. It’s also a perfect place to go after your personal goals. Whether you are itching to get faster, run longer or lose a few pounds, we have a track workout to help you nab gold.

These workouts follow the “introduce, improve, perfect” cycle. You will do the same track workout (or workouts) once a week for three weeks, followed by a recovery week, before moving on to the next workout. You will notice that each week the workout feels a bit better. After you introduce (week one), you’ll improve (week two) before finally perfecting (you guessed it: week three). In three weeks, you will be ready to move on to a more challenging workout.

More experienced runners can add one or two more reps each time you revisit a workout. For example, do 8×100 meters the first time, 10×100 meters the second time and 12×100 meters the third time. One last thing before you dig in: Always remember to spend at least 15 minutes warming up and cooling down before and after a track workout.

Recovery Week (Follow for All Plans)

Do easy running all week and include 1 recovery workout.
Recovery Workout
Intervals: 50–100 meters (approximately 40 seconds) of faster running
Recovery: Go the same distance at an easy pace. Do 8–10 sets after a good 20–30 minute warm-up and follow it up with some cool-down miles.

Want an extra weekly speed workout?
If you like the routine of doing two workouts a week, try making one of them a recovery workout. It should come later in the week and be less physically demanding than the more challenging workout. A recovery workout wakes up your legs and gets your heart pumping but doesn’t leave you feeling fatigued.

This plan is best for a runner who wants to earn a new personal best in the 5K, 10K or half marathon. It’s also great if you simply want to get faster! The following workouts will prepare your body for speed.

Half-Mile Repeats (Weeks 1–3)

Intervals: 800 meters (2 laps) at a moderately hard effort
Recovery: After each 800, jog 400 meters (1 lap) at a comfortable effort.
Do 6 sets.

Week 4: Recovery Week

1-Mile Cut-Downs (Weeks 5–7)

Intervals: 1 mile (4 laps) with each lap at slightly harder effort than the last; aim to cut down 5 seconds per lap.
Recovery: After each mile, jog 400 meters at a comfortable effort.
Do 3 sets.

Week 8: Recovery Week.

Descending Ladder w/Bonus Mile (Weeks 9–11)

Intervals: 1 mile at comfortably hard effort; 800, 600 and 400 all at moderately hard effort; 1 mile at whatever you have left in the tank.
Recovery: After each interval, jog 400 meters at a comfortable effort. Do 1 set each week, with the goal of running slightly faster each week.

Week 12: Recovery Week.

These workouts are great for runners who want to go long—or longer. You will benefit from them if you have a goal of racing a half marathon, marathon or ultra. But they’ll help anyone who wants to increase her running stamina. You have the option of completing these on a flat running path or trail as well if the track becomes too dull.

10-Minute Steady-State Intervals (Weeks 1–3)

Intervals: 10 minutes at a comfortably hard effort
Recovery: 3 minutes at a comfortable effort.
Do 3 sets.

Week 4: Recovery Week

15-Minute Steady-State Intervals (Weeks 5–7)

Intervals: 15 minutes at a comfortably hard effort
Recovery: 5 minutes at a comfortable effort
Do 2 sets.

Week 8: Recovery Week

Steady-State Descending Ladder (Weeks 9–11)

Intervals: 20 minutes at a comfortably uncomfortable effort; 10 minutes at comfortably hard; 5 minutes at hard
Recovery: After each effort, jog 3 to 5 minutes at a comfortable effort.
Do 1 set.

Week 12: Recovery Week

The following workouts are best for those runners who don’t have their sights set on a specific race, but would like to reach a healthier weight. High-intensity interval training is a great way to burn more calories. This is especially useful if you started running to lose weight but have plateaued now that steady-state running has become easier. This plan will ask you to hit the track two times per week rather than once—make sure to give yourself at least one or two days between workouts to recover. Recovery weeks should only include one track day.

Nail Your Pace
Here’s how to get your effort right.
Comfortable: Relaxed pace and able to carry on a full conversation (recovery run effort)
Comfortably uncomfortable: Focused pace but still able to chat (marathon race effort)
Comfortably hard: Difficult to talk (half-marathon race effort)
Moderately hard: No talking (5K race effort)
Hard: Breathing hard with some slight oxygen debt (last 100 meters of a 5K race)

Weekly Workout #1: Stadium Steps (Weeks 1–3, 5–7 and 9–11)

Intervals: 4 times going up stadium steps (from the bottom to the top) at a moderately hard effort; take it easy on the way down.
Recovery: After each stadium interval, complete 2 laps on the track at a comfortable to comfortably hard effort.
Do 3 sets (12 times up the steps + 6 laps).

Weeks 4, 8 and 12: Recovery Weeks

Weekly Workout #2: Run the Straights. Jog the Curves. (Weeks 1–3)

Intervals: 100 meters (straight part of track) at a moderately hard effort
Recovery: 100 meters (curve of track) at a comfortable effort
Do 10 sets (5 laps).

Week 4: Recovery Week

Run Half a Lap. Jog Half a Lap. (Weeks 5–7)

Intervals: 200 meters at a moderately hard effort
Recovery: 200 meters at a comfortable effort
Do 6 sets (6 laps).

Week 8: Recovery Week

Run 1 Lap. Jog 1 Lap. (Weeks 9–11)

Intervals: 400 meters at a moderately hard effort
Recovery: 400 meters at a comfortable effort
Do 5 sets (10 laps).

Week 12: Recovery Week

TIA ACCETTA lives in Tucson, Ariz., with her husband, Randy, and two children. She coaches a running team called the Workout Group (WOG) that Randy started 19 years ago while training for the Olympic Trials Marathon. Tia is a Road Runners Club of America–certified running coach, studied at the Lydiard Foundation in Boulder, Colo., and works with individual runners around the country to conquer long-term running goals.