Should You Trade the Roads For the Track?

© Melpomenem | Dreamstime.com

© Melpomenem | Dreamstime.com

Now that many fall half marathons are over, many runners question what they should do with themselves. Since the winter can be unpredictable and roads might be icy or unplowed; the winter is a perfect time to hit the track.

Between you and me, I find the track can be both scary and intimidating. I was never a track runner in school and my only time on the track was during the mile test in high school. That in itself brings back nightmares.


The first time I went to the track, I had no idea where to begin. So as a new track runner, where do you begin? What do you do?

If you have never run on the track before, here is an easy list of ways to integrate track workouts into your training:

Know the schedule

First and foremost, make sure you know your local track’s schedule. The best time to go is during the hours students aren’t in school.

While it’s early, I’ve rarely found any issues going before school. Sometimes after school, track teams or other teams use the track. College tracks are great because often they are rarely used during the day.

So what are the distances of the track?

Most outdoor tracks are 400 meters, and most indoor tracks are 200 meters. Double check whichever track you are using is the standard distance

  • 200 meters 1/2 lap
  • 400 meters 1 lap around the track and also equal to .25 mile
  • 800 meters 2 laps (1/2 mile)
  • 1600 meters 4 laps (1 mile)

Where should I begin a track workout?

Most of the time it’s best to begin a workout at the start of a curve. Typically, there is an area around the base of the curve that has numbers 1-6; this is the optimal place to start.

You want to run your workouts in lane one since this is the shortest part of the track. However, if you are sharing the track, the fastest runners will run in that lane.

I’m at the track… now what?

Like any training, what you do depends on your goals.

A few half marathon workouts include:

  • 4X1 mile at recent 10k pace (with 60 seconds recovery)
  • 8X800 at recent 10k pace (with 60 seconds recovery)
  • 8X800 at recent 10k pace (with 200m jog in between)

Should I rest during each interval?

Most track workouts have a period of rest or recovery during each interval. A common question for runners is: Should you stand or you should you jog slowly?

Have you ever wondered if you should jog between intervals or stand and recover?

If your goal is to build endurance and log more mileage, then you should jog your recovery. By jogging, you are always running. This means by the end of the workout; you are doing your intervals when you are more exhausted which simulate the end of a hard race.

Beginners should stick to standing and recovering. If your goal is to build strength and speed, you’ll want to fully rest by standing. By fully resting, you’re able to run faster during each interval.

How many intervals should I do?

You should always build up your intervals. It’s important to not just “jump right in”. Start with standing rest and slowly incorporate jogging rest. This is the best way to stay healthy and injury free.

The general rule of thumb is to start with 2-3 miles of hard interval work.

The track is an excellent way to mix things up in the winter while building speed. They are a great way to stay in shape over the holidays and change up your typical routine. You might even find yourself wanting to compete in track races too.

Like any training plan, it’s important to get more information and experiment for what works for you.

Hollie Sick is a New Jersey-based runner and blogger who has completed more than 30 half marathons. Learn more about Hollie at her blog, or follow her on Twitter.

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