Wednesday Workout: Need for Speed (and Time-Saving Gut-Busters) on the Track

BrainspiralAugust 26, 2015
Nakkertok skiers hard at work during a track workout in 2013. From left to right: Isaac Alexander-Cook, Kyle Curry (St. Lawrence University), Cary Pomeroy, Phil Marshall, Brendon Howard, Symon Stowe, and Patrick Van Walraven. (Photo: Jesse Williams)
Nakkertok skiers hard at work during a track workout in 2013. Read more about their team and Level 3 running loops workout. (Photo: Jesse Williams)

FS Editor Alex Kochon submitted the following, adapted from a Combo Track Workouts article by Runner’s World, as a sort of self-help, get-back-into-shape-with-limited-time article, but the workouts can be suited to super-fit athletes as well. 


We know the reason you ski is your love for variable terrain, ever-changing scenery and snow, but sometimes, you’ve just got to get a workout in. And in the summer, those feeling a lack of “me-time” might find they can work up one heck of a sweat in minimal time at a local track.

At least I have.

As a new mom, I’ve been struggling with the idea of training. I set a loose goal for a race I wanted to do in September, and stupidly picked a triathlon. Now, one week out from the big event I have yet to swim more than a few floppy freestyle strides, done mostly to cool off.

Needless to say, I’m not racing next weekend. But I have been running. And at least a couple times, I revisited the track after a LONG hiatus, and I did speed work.

The best thing about track workouts is you can easily measure progress. I’m not suggesting that skiers need to do this frequently or even regularly, but an occasional speed session measured by mindless laps around a 400-meter track and a trusty stopwatch (and headphones, if you’re running solo and could use the extra motivation) can give an added boost to your endurance training.

I recently tried some combo workouts, adapted from Runner’s World (RW).

“Your training should be diversified and well-balanced,” RW contributor Kristin Barry wrote. “It should have a mix of different types of workouts and pace variation — V02 max intervals, tempo runs, progression runs and near maximum speed intervals. Each of these is an important piece in a balanced program.”

Barry gave some ideas for incorporating a variety of paces into a single workout: thus, the combo workout, which are great for saving time as well (i.e. if you can’t get a two-hour workout in most days). Some of these I’ve cut short or abbreviated for the purpose of saving time — and easing back into shape.

From Runner’s World, Oct. 2011:

  • Workout #1: 20-minute tempo, 3 X 1,000M at 5 k pace or faster

(Total: 20 minutes at half-marathon pace + 3 kilometers of faster 1,000-meter repeats, with 6-9 total minutes of recovery in between)

How: Begin with an easy 15-to 20-minute jog. After warming up and doing a few strides, run for 20 minutes at approximately 10-mile or half marathon race pace. Jog 400m and then go immediately into 1,000m repeats at 5K pace or just faster. Take 2-3 minutes rest between each 1,000m repeat.

When: This workout is best performed well into a training schedule when your fitness is relatively high, as it’s a fairly demanding, challenging workout.

Why: In addition to targeting lactate threshold, this workout allows you to practice running goal 5K pace on fatigued legs and simulates what the last mile of a 5K feels like. It’s a great confidence booster and good workout to go back to mentally when your legs begin to tire in the last third of a 5K.


  • Workout #2: 2 X 6:00/5:00/4:00/3:00/2:00/1:00

(Total: 42 minutes + 15 minutes recovery in between)

How: After an appropriate warm-up, run each timed interval followed by a minute recovery jog; take a 5:00 recovery jog between the two sets. Run the 6:00 interval at marathon pace, the 5:00 interval at half marathon pace, the 4:00 interval at 10K pace, the 3:00 interval at 8K pace, the 2:00 interval at 5K pace and the 1:00 interval at 3K pace.

When: This is a great early season workout, a rust buster of sorts. It allows you to become familiar again with faster running without hammering 1200m repeats right away.

Why: This workout touches upon many different paces and encourages Hudson’s notion of keeping all systems fit and not neglecting any particular component of running fitness. It provides tremendous variation in both pace and intensity. As mentioned, Hudson believes it’s important to have a high level of non-race-specific fitness before beginning race specific workouts, and this workout addresses all the fundamentals.


  • Workout #3: 2 X 3,000M/2,000M/1,000M

(Total: 12 k + 16 minutes recovery in between)

How: After warming up, run 3,000m at tempo pace, or approximately half marathon pace. Take a 2:00 recovery jog and then run 2,000m a bit faster. Take another 2:00 recovery jog and then run 1,000m at 10K pace or faster. Then jog for 4:00 and repeat the set.

When: This workout can be used at various points during the season. Hudson has his athletes run 10K pace for the 1,000m interval earlier in the season and has them bring it down to 5K pace later in the season as their fitness improves. The key is that as fitness advances, the intervals-particularly the 1,000m interval-become progressively faster.

Why: This workout is designed to bolster power endurance, which Hudson defines as long intervals that support the specific endurance needed to run your best in a goal race. Hudson says specific endurance is “the type of endurance that is needed to maximize performance at a particular race distance. It is the ability to resist fatigue at your goal pace long enough to reach the finish line without slowing down.”


  • Workout #4: (5 X 400M)/MILE + (5 X 300M)/1200M + (5 X 200)

(Total: 7.3 k, or 4 1/2 miles, with 37 minutes recovery in between)

How: After warming up, run 5 x 400m at approximately 3K pace with a minute rest between each repetition. Jog for 5-6 minutes and then run one mile at approximately 10K pace. Take another 5:00 jog and then run 5 x 300m at about mile pace with a minute rest between repetitions. Jog 5:00 again and then run 1200m at 5K pace. Once again, jog for 5:00 and then run 5 x 200m at mile pace or faster with a 2:00 recovery jog between each repetition.

When: Performing this workout in the final few weeks before a goal race accomplishes a bit of sharpening and also aids the neuromuscular coordination needed to run at goal pace.

Why: This workout provides a solid measure of speed training, which boosts neuromuscular fitness and running economy. Work done at near maximal speed-the 200m repeats at the end of the workout at faster than mile pace-makes all other running paces more economical. Furthermore, this workout helps you practice maintaining strong running mechanics while under great stress.

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