How To Run Faster, Or, Track Training Programmes You Can Do Too

I’ve been moderately active my whole life, but I’ve never really been a runner—not until I moved to Hong Kong, anyway. I remember my first run here: sweating in the September heat, I ran past the Queen Elizabeth Hospital I’d end up in three months later with a broken elbow from running, up Wylie Road, got lost at the top of Waterloo Road, and looped back home. The 20-minute three-kilometre run had become a one-hour 5K. I was exhausted and probably could have walked it faster. It reminded me why I’d dropped out of the Charity Runners Club at university (I managed one whole mile), ditched Volleyball, and skipped out on swimming.

But I had it in my head that running 10K was something everyone had to do at some point, further fuelled by the fact that when I moved to Hong Kong I met a lot of people who were a lot fitter than me. One of my colleagues, Danni ‘Coach’ Tarrant, a triathlon competitor and enthusiastic runner, set up a running club: every Thursday night, we would meet at the track.

After my first frankly terrible run I wasn’t feeling very motivated—except for the fact that I knew I had a track session coming up with all my colleagues. I won’t lie to you, the idea of being the slowest person at the track fuelled my desire to keep at it. For a while, I was—most of my colleagues and running teammates could outpace me on the track. It didn’t stay that way for long.

Running about three times a week, for twelve weeks, I ran my first 10K (with a broken elbow, no less)—although it’s the consistency and length of time that I was training, it was also the track session that helped. They gave me a structure to my fitness schedule, and as I’ve mentioned before, helped me increase my speed.

So, if you’re interested in getting into the race—here are four of my favourite track session workouts.

    • Running laps in a set time frame, ie, 400m in 3 minutes. However much you beat it by is the amount of time you have to rest between laps—so if I run it in 2.30, I have 30 seconds to rest. The goal is to run 8-10 laps at a fairly consistent speed. Adjust the time frame depending on your initial speed.

    • Running 400m laps with varying levels of effort: the first at 60%, second at 70%, third at 80%, fourth at 90%, fifth at 80%, sixth at 70%, seventh at 60%. This means your middle lap should be your fastest and helps you to control your speed and time, to conserve energy better.

    • Interval training: 200m sprint, 200m speed walk, and repeat for 6-10 laps. This one has no breaks and is particularly good for beginners.

    • Interval training, style two: 100m sprint, 100m jog, 100m sprint, 100m jog; 200m sprint, 200m jog; 400m. Take a break and repeat the sequence 2-3 times. This is building up stamina, but again helping you gain control of your energy reserves.

Of course, don’t forget your warm up and cool down. Warm up should consist of dynamic stretching and something to get your heart rate up—a couple of laps at a slow pace, jumping jacks, skipping, and stretches to limber up your legs muscles and shoulders. The cooldown can be a bit more relaxed—think yoga moves and static poses that will really stretch out the muscles. You’ll know the muscles that need to be worked and stretched more because you’ll be able to feel them.

Side note: if you happen to live in Hong Kong, and want to get into running or need a bit of motivation to hit the track, I’ll be restarting our track running group from September 2019. If you’re interested, say hello in the comments or shoot me an email.

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