This Track Workout Will Do More Than Just Make You Faster

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Attendees of Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego's Educators Workshop run on a track during a mock combat fitness test.
Attendees of Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego's Educators Workshop run on a track during a mock combat fitness test at MCRD San Diego, April 18, 2023. (Cpl. Elliott A. Flood-Johnson/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

If you are looking for a break from resistance training and need to work on your running speed, pacing and overall endurance, check out this track workout. It can help you improve your running for timed runs, increase speed for sprint shuttle runs, and build leg and lung endurance for overall work capacity.

This was a workout our local training group did after a tough leg day on Monday and an upper-body lift/PT on Tuesday. The following was our Wednesday workout. On Thursday, we were ready for a mobility day.

Warm up with easy calisthenics and short jogs. The weather is changing, and it took a little longer to warm up in near-freezing temperatures this morning. This is one of my favorite ways to warm up prior to a faster run or leg day:

Pre-workout: Air squats/run pyramid 1-10 warm-up with 100-meter runs in-between:

This simply means to do one squat, jog 100 meters, do two squats, jog 100 meters and keep going up the pyramid until you reach Set 10, then stop. It is optional to mix in dynamic stretches during some of the 100-meter jogs, as needed.

To top off the warm-up, add in a steady pace event for 8-10 minutes: Bike 10 minutes or run one mile.

Now the track workout begins:

Section 1 is the goal pace sets. Depending on your ability, you can make this run 400 or 800 meters, but the pace is the same -- the goal mile pace you want to achieve for your next timed run (i.e., a six- or seven-minute mile). Then "rest" with sit-ups or a plank pose for one minute each set:

Repeat four times.

  • Run 400 meters at goal mile pace
  • Sit-ups or plank one minute

Section 2 will be our progressive sets of 200-meter runs each week of the next 12-week cycle. Each week, we will add a set until we peak at 20 sets. These are not goal paces. You run the first 100 meters fast, then jog the second 100 meters; the rest you get is the time remaining on the one-minute interval. In other words, run 10 200-meter runs/jogs every minute on the minute (EMOM):

  • Run 100 meters fast/100 meters slow x 10
  • One-minute intervals

Section 3 is resistance running. With stairs, bleachers, stair stepper machines or hills, run up/down for 10 minutes without stopping. You can also add a backpack if you want more of a challenge.

  • Run bleachers, hills, stair-stepper machines or step-ups for 10 minutes.

Section 4 is a combination cooldown, with your choice of biking for 10 minutes or jogging for one mile. Then add in the same calisthenics you warmed up with but in reverse.

Cooldown with Calisthenics/Jog/Stretching:

Squats reverse pyramid 10-1, cooldown with easy 50-meter jogs, mixed with static or dynamic stretches between sets.

Tomorrow, you earned an easy day. Try a Mobility Day, as you may need it if you are new to running faster than long, slow distances or goal pace.

Repeat five times.

  • Five minutes of cardio of your choice
  • Five minutes of stretching or foam rolling
  • (Mix in biking, elliptical machines, rowing, etc.)

During strength training cycles, when you also must maintain your cardio (fast and slow), you should consider a mobility day in the middle of the week. You can place it as an ideal gap day between an upper- and lower-body day split routine. Or after a fast-running track day. There is also nothing wrong with having two mobility days, especially if you need the nonimpact cardio activity as a break from higher-mileage events. Through experience, our training group has felt the need to do mobility days for these reasons.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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