Track work plays a key role in your training.

Whether you are considering a spring marathon or you are a high school or college runner prepping for outdoor track, it’s time to start thinking about getting back on the track. While it’s unclear how this spring’s track season will unfold, one thing is for sure: runners will continue to train.

Even if you participate only in road races (virtual or in-person), track can play a key role in your training. While doing your speedwork on roads yields good results, you can’t beat the track for a more focused and scientific approach.

For those who are “getting back on track,” you should really ease into it and consider February more of a buildup. Your workouts will consist mainly of base- building to build strength and stamina as you prepare for the actual racing season.

Most distances coaches agree that somewhat longer, slower intervals are appropriate at this phase. You don’t want to jump in all-out and potentially end up injured. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to escalate into higher intensity, shorter intervals as the season progresses. For now, try running 600 to 1000-meter repeats at about 75% race pace, rather than jumping right into 200-400 repeats at top speed.

Remember, this phase is all about strength and conditioning—that’s why it’s called a build-up. Runners progressing to the more serious speed work will begin to see improvements in such metrics as VO2 Max (the maximum amount of oxygen that you can utilize while running). A higher VO2max means you can take in and utilize more oxygen. Improving your VO2max is the most direct route to improving your middle-distance times.

Spikes or Not?
Once the racing season starts, you’ll definitely want to race on the track in spikes. But should you train in them, even when doing track workouts? Good question.

“For training, I think you want to just use spikes in high intensity workouts,” said Ready to Run store manager and former University of Texas track ace Rory Tunningley.

“When you run hard in spikes, you are putting yourself at risk for injuries by turning on all the muscles in your lower legs and forcing yourself to be on your toes the entire time. I’d say wear them for 400 repeats once a week, and then take them off. I really never wear spikes in training in anything longer than 800 repeats. Use them sparingly. You want to use them a little bit, so on race day it’s not a new thing, but you certainly don’t need to do all your track training in them! That way, when you lace them up on race day, they feel extra fast. You’ll want to use spikes specific to the event you are running. There are different ones for sprints, mid-distance, and middle distances.”

“We’ll help you get the right pair at Ready to Run,” added Tunningley.

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