By Kelly Stolzmann
I found a love of running later in life, so I initially didn’t have the experience, coaching, or knowledge to realize the benefits of a track workout. My only personal experience on a track was when I competed in the 400 meter relay race at my 5th grade Sports Day. I was put in the fourth position, the last runner to bring the baton to the finish line and score a big win for Wilson Elementary. Alas, I dropped the baton and shattered my team’s chance for gold. Needless to say, track was not for me (or so I thought).
Fast forward to my 30’s when I decided to give running a try. As a mom to two young boys I was looking for a way to be physically active that was low cost and flexible with respect to my schedule. After running consistently for a few months I began to set goals and sign up for local races. An obvious goal was to improve my race time. My husband, a marathoner and lifelong runner, convinced me to give track workouts a try as a way to improve my race performance and overall fitness. He even found a local running group for me (FHR, surprise!). Initially, I was intimidated to show up to a track workout. I pushed away thoughts like “But I’m not a *real* runner”, “I haven’t been on a track since 5th grade”, “What if I’m the slowest runner?” and “When will I ever need to sprint, anyway?” and attended my first FHR track workout last spring. Now, it’s a part of my weekly running schedule.
In addition to improvements in speed, track workouts also*:
- teach your lungs to process more oxygen more efficiently. Not only will you be faster, but you’ll be able to run harder for longer.
- are a great way to burn fat. Your metabolism stays higher for longer, so you keep burning fat long after you are finished running.
- are just one component in creating a well-rounded running program. Even if a runner does not care about getting faster, you can become more efficient and complete a terrific workout in less time.
- give you a chance to think about and work on your form as well as pushing yourself to your upper limits. Even just one speed work-out a week can help you increase your pace and running efficiency.
FHR track workouts are semi-structured which is great for newbies. A guided group warm-up on the track is followed by a choice of two options for a workout (one geared toward shorter distances and another for longer distances), or you can create your own custom workout. The FHR team leaders always set some guidelines for goal pace and are able to answer questions and give reminders about track etiquette or customizing your workout based on ability or interest. It’s fun and motivating to be working hard along other runners, and to give out and receive motivation and encouragement. And lest you think track workouts would be the same thing week after week, running around a big circle like mice on a wheel, FHR keeps things interesting by varying the suggested pace and distances for each practice and sometimes moving practice away from the track to the Arboretum or Jamaicaway for hill repeats.
I pushed away thoughts like “But I’m not a *real* runner”, “I haven’t been on a track since 5th grade”, “What if I’m the slowest runner?” and “When will I ever need to sprint, anyway?”
FHR track workouts hold me accountable and motivate me to show up and work hard. I was hesitant to participate in a group track workout since I didn’t want to feel like other runners were judging my pace or effort. FHR track workouts are great because everyone is supportive; even if you decide to jog around the track while the workout is happening, that’s ok! No one cares if you do 2 reps or 10, as long as you try and have fun. The workouts are relatively short but you will leave the track feeling like you accomplished a lot, and (bonus!) you will see improvements in your race times. I ran my first marathon this fall and I credit FHR track practice with improving my overall fitness and allowing me to give an extra boost when I wanted to kick up the pace in the last few miles of the race. I encourage all runners (of all abilities) to deviate from the safety of their regular routine and give FHR track practice a try. At the workouts you will meet a group of friendly people to push you and help you attain your running goals, whatever they may be. I hope to see you there!
FHR track practice meets every Thursday at 7pm at Stony Brook or meet us at 7:15 at Downs Field in Brookline. Starting soon for the winter we will be at the Reggie Lewis Track- follow us on Facebook for workout info.