hit the trackIt’s race season and that means it’s track season.

The summer months are the height of race season, at least for shorter distances like 5ks, 10ks, and 10-milers. These distances require faster racing paces than their fall and spring cousins, the half and full marathon. With a focus on speed, then, it’s time to turn to the track to practice some serious leg turnover.

While many runners love the idea of track, they are intimidated by it or don’t quite know how to use it to their best advantage. To help you, I’ve provided a couple of my favorite workouts below.

Before you jump into the meat of the workouts, however, make sure you take the time for an adequate warm up. I’d recommend two easy miles, followed by a couple of laps with 100-meter strides thrown in. Once you are ready to roll, try one of the following speedy sessions:

The mile buster — I think this is perhaps my favorite workout on the track. You can do this with either three or four mile repeats. Your goal is going to be holding the same 400 split all the way through each mile, except that you’re going to start on the inside lane and move out a lane each lap, thus increasing the distance you’re running while achieving the same split. Your overall mile pace should be your 10k pace.

So say you can hold a 7-minute pace for the 10k. Starting on the inside lane, run a 1:45 quarter. Keep going with the same split goal but move out a lane on the next lap, and so on. What I like about this workout is that it teaches you to negative split, all the while working on your speed.

The second workout I’m going to recommend is a decreasing ladder. That is, you’re going to start longer and slower but continuously work your way down to shorter/faster speeds. It goes like this:

2 x 1,200 at 10k pace
4 x 400 at 5k pace
4 x 200 at just about all out pace

Run an easy 400 between the two 1,200s; an easy 200 between the 400s; and an easy 100 between the 200s.

Again, this system will help work on your ability to negative split because you’ll start out at an easier pace and learn to get faster as you go along. It also works varying systems with the big variance in pace from one distance to the next. This is valuable for pacing, speed, and strong, fast finishes.

After each session on the track, take the time to cool down properly. Again a nice, easy two miles will help bring your heart rate back down and also clear all the junk out of your legs that you just accumulated from your hard work.

Keep in mind that track workouts are hard. The day after and the day before should be easy or off days to allow your body to recover properly for the next session. I recommend scheduling your track workouts on a Tuesday or Wednesday so that you have a chance to recover fully before your weekend long run.

Enjoy the challenge of these workouts and aim to get on the track once a week in the heart of the racing season. With consistency, you should begin to reap the benefits of your hard work within a month or so. Good luck!