Track moves to the forefront in runners’ minds with the UIL state Track Meet underway this weekend. As you watch some of these amazing athletes blaze across the finish line, remember that it took some serious training to get that fast.

The most direct route to improving your running performance is to implement speed workouts.

All coaches and runners know that the most direct route to improving your running performance is to implement speed workouts. Without shorter, more intense bouts of running, you simply aren’t going to make the same gains. However, may runners lack creativity when it comes to mapping out a track workout. The old fallback of running 12 x 400 meters is more often than not a standby routine. And while it’s a good, solid workout, your body will eventually adapt to it and you’ll need a new stimulus. Plus, variety helps from a mental stand point.

Speed training on the track (interval training) is the preferred method because it is so precise. As an added bonus, track training helps develop a keen sense of pace—an invaluable asset in a race.

So what are some alternatives to the 12 x 400? How about focusing on your fast-twitch muscle fibers by shortening your track workout down to two-three miles worth of 200s. Jog 200 for your interval in between each one. As you improve, you can shorten your interval to 100-meters, as this fine-tunes your fitness.

Keep in mind that all of the workouts mentioned here are prefaced by a two-mile warm-up and followed by a warm-down of at least a mile.

Running 800’s is also a great workout. Try building up to six of them at faster than 5K pace. Initially, you can jog a 400-recovery interval, but like other speed work, as you progress, you’ll shorten that—in this case to 200 meters. You’d be surprised at how demanding this workout

And yes, you knew this one was coming, but it’s amazing how many people avoid it: mile repeats. Mile repeats are great for building that “end-of-the-race stamina you’ll want to draw on as the finish line nears in your next 5K. What makes mile repeats effective is that you’ll run them at slightly faster than your 5K pace. For example, if you hope to average 6:00 minutes a mile during your next 5K, try running three times a mile at 5:50 each, with a full 400 recovery jog in between each one.

Here’s a great one that not many people do: the “whole/half; whole/half.” Basically, you’ll alternate one mile and half mile speed efforts at faster than 5K pace, jogging 400 in between each. This workout can help you bust through to the next level. The reason it’s so demanding is that when you drop down to the half after running the whole, you’re forcing your body to pick up the pace when you may feel fatigued—exactly the situation that occurs during racing!

It’s no secret that Track workouts are very demanding on the body, so be sure to build in sufficient recovery! For most folks, one track workout a week should do the trick!

Upcoming Races: Saturday, May 19 at 8:00 a.m., the Daisy 5K at Camp Mabry, Austin. Saturday, May 19 at 8:00 a.m. Superhero 5K at Lake Pflugerville, 18216 Weiss LN, Pflugerville. Also Saturday, May 19- Front Porch Days Half Marathon/10K/5K/ 3K/1K at Negley Elementary, 5940 McNaughton in Kyle. The half-marathon begins at 6:30 a.m., followed by the 5K and 10K at 7:00 a.m.