Of all three disciplines in triathlon, running is the hardest on the body in terms of potential for injury. When we think of the type of running we do, track workouts further up the injury potential stakes. How do you prepare yourself for a high intensity track workout?
1. Be mentally prepared for the intensity. A track workout is supposed to be intense. You are
trying to raise your anaerobic threshold which is physically uncomfortable, there is no place to
hide out there and you are on the clock, it can feel intimidating so mentally bringing your game
face is important.
2. Make sure it fits into your training plan. Is track going to be your high intensity run workout
this week? If so make sure you back off a little on other run workouts. Those fast twitch muscle
fibers need to be really stimulated to fire but they also take 7-10 days to recover, so this type of
intensity should only be done once a week at most.
3. Make sure you are warmed up – an easy mile warm up and some light stretching / hip
loosening is the absolute minimum – the older you are and the less regular you are at track the
more important it is to warm up – and No the Drills are not a warm up!
4. Focus mentally on the drills. When done with a focus on form and technique they are very
effective at improving running form, however if you are engaged in casual conversation and
relaxed, they are far less effective. Try to really focus on the drills – they help improve your
proprioception(your ability to know where your body is in space). A word of caution on the
drills, be aware that for some people, just doing the drills, stretching and a couple of easy laps
might be all the body can tolerate at the first few sessions of the season – the drills are very
hard on calves and other tendons and ligaments.
5. Pace Changes; trying to figure out how fast to run each 400, 800 or mile from week to week
can be very difficult. Reasons your pace will increase from week to week include recovery
from injury, increases in fitness and stamina, improvements in form and technique. However
day to day fatigue, illness, allergies, and the quality of last nights sleep as well as a myriad
of nutritional and physiological factors can impact how fast you can run and how much you
can push yourself. So, make sure you are actively focused on your body while you run, not
just technique, body lean, arm position, core engagement and foot strike, but pain issues,
imbalances, and tightness in any muscle groups – and if in doubt back off immediately –
remember high intensity running has high injury potential.
6. Knowing your pace. Becoming familiar with a pace calculator can really help find that zone at
track. Check out the McMillan running calculator to figure out the pace you should be running
each week based on your current run times. Make sure you let your coaches know your training
7. Communicate; talk to your teammates; What pace are they running at? How often do they
come to track? You might be tempted to try and run at the same pace as a fellow athlete as
your current mile times are equivalent – but if this is your first track workout of the season and
their 10th its probably smarter to be a little more conservative. Keep the communication going
between yourself and your coach let them know how you are feeling, its much easier to modify
the workout if they know whats going on with you.
8. Last but not least. Show up! Bring it, and have a great attitude!
See you out there!