That Time of Year for a Track Workout

The other day, I got a message from an old friend asking if I could give him advice for a track workout. With Spring here, there's no better time to be outside huffing and puffing on a track. He was interested in doing some HIIT and other methods that he had read about to help get in shape for the summer, but didn’t know how to put the program together or how to progress it. I know exactly how he feels, it's gorgeous outside and if I can do my workouts in the sun, I feel better for it. I like HIIT training, especially for general fitness and weight loss, but I think often times it’s misused and put on a pedestal as God’s greatest gift to anyone owning a stop watch.  The problem is there aren't many good resources that explain many of the popular conditioning methods such as HIIT or how to progress into them. So when I write track programs for my weight loss and general fitness clients, I like to structure it like this:

*Though this is a track workout, this is not what I would give track athletes. This is for the gym goer who wants to get some workouts outside, improve their work capacity, lose weight and add to their overall level of bad-assery.*

Phase 1: GPP (General Physical Preparedness), Aerobic Power Development

If you’ve been training over the Winter, then you can probably forgo this phase. If you’re just getting off the couch, you need this. GPP is needed to ensure that your body is functioning and moving well before you start to stick it with more intensive and specific movements. Going into an intense track program without a good movement base to ensure proper mobility/stability would be akin to riding a bull without ever having rode a horse. It’s going to hurt and it won’t last long.

A standard weight-training plan, chalk full of diverse movements, should get you where you need to go. Recently, Coach Kelsey did an article on the subject of GPP, powerlifts and all things heavy for Tony Gentilcore that may give you better understanding of the subject.

The other goal of this phase should be some aerobic power development. Aerobic Power refers to the amount of energy (ATP) your aerobic system can produce in a given amount of time. This is needed to build an aerobic base for recovery between bouts on the track. Unless you’re performing slow, long distance runs (booooooring), the energy for almost all sprint work you do will largely come from the anaerobic system and depend on your aerobic system for recovery between the bouts. Therefore, if you lack an aerobic base, you’re not going to make it through many rounds of the “meat and potatoes” of wave 2.

Translation: Lets say you have a solar-powered hybrid (and hopefully you don’t drive like most hybrid owners). It runs on electricity and gas. The electricity can last a long time, but not produce a whole lot of energy at once or get you where you need to go fast. The gas can make you go faster, but is used up at a much higher rate and usually forces you to revert back to using electricity when it runs low. In this way, your body’s aerobic energy pathway (the one that uses oxygen) is like the electricity and the anaerobic pathway (no oxygen needed) is like the gas. If you aren’t driving hard, then the solar-pannels can actually charge your battery as you drive. If you drive really hard then you are forced to use you gas until it depletes and you must slow down and use electricity.

Now the cool thing about your body that unfortunately our cars can’t do, is it can use those solar panels (breathing) to regenerate the gas (anaerobic pathway), just at a very slow rate. Traditional distance running at a slow, steady pace will give you a bigger battery (aerobic capacity), but will not help you to recharge any faster (aerobic power). For phase 1, we’re going to be improving the battery slightly, but mainly focus on connecting those solar panels to help you recharge faster.

I personally like to develop aerobic power work while performing GPP work through circuit training. Maintaining your heart rate somewhere between 110 and 160 (+/- 10 bpm depending on age)  throughout a workout of 40-60 minutes is really all you need to get a training stimulus for the aerobic pathway. Not letting your heart rate dip much below 110 will keep your aerobic system going and help with overall work capacity, though the main adaptation we want comes from the brief rest periods between exercises that should help with aerobic power. After each set, it’s important to let the heart rate drop back down to around 100- 110 bpm so as not to rob yourself of the power adaptation. We then get it back up and repeat. Doing this 2-3x/week at varying intensities will produce the aerobic power needed in roughly 3-4 weeks. I should also note that it really helps to put running style movements into the workout.

For example, the workout would look something like this:

3-5 Rounds: :20-40 between exercises 2-3:00 between rounds of active mobility work (not static stretching)

A1. RDL                                                       x5-7

A2. 3 Point Row                                          x8/side

A3. Spiderman Crawl                                  x 10 yds down and back

A4. Stepback Goblet Lunge                        x8/side

A5. Plank                                                     x:30

3-5 Rounds: :20-40 between exercises 1:00-2:00 between rounds

B1. Goblet Squat                                          x8-12

B2. Pushup(adjust as needed)                    x6-8

B3. Lateral High Knees                                x10-yds/side

B4. Side Plank                                             x:15/side

* The rest periods should be manipulated so that that individual can stays within the 120-160 BPM throughout the circuit. When you rest between sets, let it drop down to 100-110*

This initial stage is when you should start running and acclimating your body to the repetitive motions, strides and forces if you haven't already. Let the aerobic development of the circuit training be your main conditioning whereas your actual running work should be more technique focused. Nothing fancy, work up to running 1.5 miles TOTAL at a steady working pace in one training session. I recommend doing this by just breaking it up in shorter bouts and making sure you’re RUNNING, not jogging (jogging makes you easier to kill). Again, if you already run one to two times per week, you’re probably good to go. This could even be a game of any field sport on weekends. The purpose of all this is more to be sure that when you start adding time on the track that your body doesn't have a negative response to the sudden increase in running volume.

Phase 2: Explosive Repeats and Extensive Tempo

The quick bursts of explosiveness followed by longer rest may seem easy, but you’re actually maximizing the quality of work being done for the session. The fast twitch muscle fibers that we’re addressing have the most capacity for growth. They are also more anaerobically based. This workout is designed to help teach them to recover aerobically (beefin’ up dem solar panels) and allow for more overall quality sprint work to be done. It also allows us to ease into our sprint work more efficiently. Waaay too many programs take you into high intensity sprint work too quickly which usually results in muscle pulls.

The constant repetitiveness of the acceleration phase of the sprint is also going to tax your muscles without taking you into the max velocity phase of the sprint. Plainly stated: in the acceleration phase, your muscles must primarily focus on the overall force output. In contrast, during the max velocity phase you have to fight to keep up the pace and maintain a high rate of force production. It is then that you have a higher chance of muscle pulls or strains, especially as you try to maintain that speed longer.

It’s for these reasons that for this first day,most of our work is in the acceleration phase. Each work bout should last between 8 and 12 seconds and be timed so that you don’t reach your max velocity of the rep until about 5-15 meters from your finishing point.

On the second day, we’re going to introduce some longer distance sprint work at moderate intensities. The longer distance helps trainees to self-regulate their sprint speed so they can maintain form for the duration of the sprint. This should negate any issues that usually arise from training the max velocity maintenance phase that was mentioned in the previous paragraph. It’s also going to help the trainee to collect his/her sprinting rhythm.

Sprinting rhythm is something that must be practiced before indulging in any sprint-style conditioning program. That’s why we’re doing it now before moving onto the most intensive phase. Many people like to over-tense their body, thinking more effort means more speed. More effort often means wasted effort and the longer distance sprints will make you think twice before wasting it. It also gives you more time to collect said rhythm.

These workouts will be done in an A-B-A-B fashion, totaling 3 workouts per week. Meaning over 4 weeks, you should have had 12 track workouts. If you’re limited on time, doing these each once per week will still provide huge benefits, however I would scale the next phase back a little. Also, I should note that I’d recommend still maintaining an intelligent weight training program in cohesion with this twice per week.

**A quick note on the intensity percentage: It’s meant for the intensity of the relative distance. Meaning that if I can run 100m in 10 seconds at 100% intensity, then it would take me 12 seconds to run 100m at 80% intensity. Your estimated time does not have to be 100% accurate, you’ll have a feel for it after your first couple workouts. But, if you start missing your projected/estimated on bouts, then add more recovery time.**

A Day

1)General Warm Up

2)Striders 3-5 rounds increasing intensity with each set

3)Explosive repeats: 

*Vary your reps based on heart rate. 8:00 minutes of active rest between sets. Fit in some dynamic mobility work and form drills in the 8:00.*

Workout 1   2x6-8 40M Sprint at 85-90%. :50-1:00 between reps,

Workout 3   2x7-9 40M Sprint at 85-90%. :40-:50 between reps

Workout 5   2x7-9 40M Sprint at 90-95%. :35-:45 between reps

Workout 7   2x6-8 50M Sprint at 85-90%. :35-:45 between reps

workout 9   2x7-9 50M Sprint at 90-95%. :35-45 between reps

workout 11    2x7-9 50M Sprint at 90-95%. :30-40 between reps

B Day

1)General Warmup

2)Build Ups

3)Extensive Tempo Runs:

*Do not add more than 600M at a time to your total volume between sessions*

Workout 2 3x3-5 200M at 75% 30 with 2-3:00 between reps 5-6:00 between sets

Workout 4 3x4-5 200M  at 75% 30 with 2-2:30 between reps 6:00 between sets

Workout 6 4x3-4 200M  at 80% with 1:30-2:30 between reps 5:00 between sets               

Workout 8 4x2-3 300M at 75% with 2-3:00 between reps 5-6:00 between sets

Workout 10 2x4-6 300M at 75% with 2-3:00 between reps 7:00 between sets     

Workout 12  3x3-4 300M at 80% with 2-2:30 between 5-6:00 between sets

Phase 3: Lactate Capacity

With the exception of certain sporting events, lactate capacity work is really overused  in conditioning programs. However, it does yield nice results in a general weight-loss program due to the increase in GH that high levels of lactate yields. This phase is a bit more grueling as your muscles are going to be pumping battery acid on the 400 M repeats. Recovery-based movements will be done immediately after to move the lactate from the prime movers to the tonic/stabilizing muscles. This will help because tonic muscles are generally more slow twitch and thus better suited to metabolize the lactate and recover. This is also why developing the aerobic power from the last wave will be so crucial. If you did not attain the necessary base, your recovery time between each bout will be significantly longer, making the training stimulus we’re shooting for less effective.

If we go back to our car analogy, this wave is going to get your car to be able to floor it longer, then utilize those solar panels to be able to floor it again. We’re also going to put in a day to ensure that everything stays aligned and running well.

Depending upon how well your body handles it (and how well you can feel your legs the following days) you can do the 400m repeats UP TO twice per week. This will largely depend on your recovery and general training history.

A Day -If only doing once per week, do the odd days

1)General Warmup

2)Build Ups

3)400M repeats: All to be done at 85-95% effort depending on how you feel. Perform a slow cross crawl march for about :30 of recovery time

Workout 1 2x3-4 400M sprint with 1:30 between reps   5:00 between sets

Workout 2 3x3-4 400M Sprint with 1:45 between reps  6:00 between sets

Workout 3 4x3 400M sprint with 1:30 between reps  5:00 between sets

Workout 4 2x5 400M sprint with 2:00 between reps 4:00 between sets

Workout 5 4x3-4 400M sprint with 1:15 between reps

Workout 6 2x5 400M sprint with 1:30 between reps

Workout 7 4x4 400M sprint with 1:00 between reps

Workout 8 2x5 400M sprint with 1-1:30 between reps

The second day only needs to be done once per week as it’s just helping to feed your body for the 400m repeats. This is going to be a less traditional workout and focus on quality sprint work at a lower relative intensity when compared to the A day, but you will be more active with drills in between bouts. The drills serve to add to the efficiency of your form and/or rhythm, keep your HR from dipping down too low and give you a break from the monotony of more or less running in circles. Keep in mind the effort of executing them right should be high and the intensity at which they’re performed should be low.

Where as the A day will have your metabolism ramped up for a more extended period of time after the workout, this workout will burn more calories intra-workout. It will also aid in recovery as your body stays in a predominantly aerobic state and includes movements that will address a greater diversity of tissues/joint motions.

As far as weight training with this phase. A 1-2x/week plan is adequate whereas 3x/week may be a little much for most people.

B Day

All sprints to be done at 80-90%, all form/mobility drills should be done at about a pace of :25-35 execution. HR never dips below 110.

A1) 30-50 M Sprint

A2) 50 M light A Skips

A3) 30-50 M Sprint

A4) 50 M Reverse Open Gate Skip

A5) 30-50 M Sprint

A6) 50 M Goose Steps

2:30-5:00 rest

Some 0ther drills that you can use/swap in and out: B Skips, Butt Kicks, light bounds,  and lateral step overs.

There you have it. Three waves of programming to get you off your butt and onto the track. Keep in mind to listen to your body and track your rest times carefully. From here, you could try traditional HIIT training or tabatta work as you should be pretty well suited for it. Go run and enjoy!