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Mix Up Your Leg Training with Some Track Workouts!

Incorporating track/running workouts into your training program can provide many benefits.  Track workouts allow you to vary your heart rate and train using cardio intervals.  Track training is a great tool to increase fat loss by burning a significant number of calories.  It can boost your metabolic rate while also helping you build strength and endurance.  It is also a great way to mix up your training, keep things challenging and enjoy some outdoor training if the weather permits.  There are a multitude of exercises and training approaches that you can incorporate into your track workouts, depending on your goals.  Even short workouts can be very effective when you don’t have time to hit the gym!

Terminology

Track workouts aren’t just about jogging or running around a track.  Below are a few common exercises that can be incorporated into track workouts to target specific areas of the lower body, increase strength and stamina, and make your workouts more fun and challenging.

  • Wind Sprints:  Wind sprints are performed in short bursts where you run as fast as you can between two set points.  These can be done around a track with some time walking or jogging in-between, or down a straight path, turning 180 degrees and walking back to the start to repeat the sprint.  If you use a track, try not to sprint around the turns, as this can put added pressure on the knees and cause injury.  Sprint down the straight parts of the track, and use the turns to walk and lower your heart rate.  Wind sprints should be done at high intensity; you should be working out of your comfort zone for about 20-45 seconds.

  • Chasses:  A chasses is a ballet movement consisting of quick gliding steps with the same foot always leading.  Your body faces towards the outside or the inside of the track while you are performing chasses, depending on which leg is leading.
     
  • Grapevine: The grapevine is performed similarly to the chasses in that you will face either to the inside or the outside of the track, but your feet/legs will form a weaving pattern.  If you are facing to the inside of the track with your right leg leading, then your left leg will cross in front of your right leg, and your right leg will cross back behind your left leg.  Then, your left leg will cross behind your right leg, and your right leg will cross back, in front of your left leg.
     
  • Plyometrics:  Plyometrics refers to exercises that are designed to enhance an individual’s explosive reaction through rapid and powerful muscular contractions.  This includes any sort of jumping or hurdling.  Plyometrics can be incorporated into any workout to help improve strength, stamina, and power.  Examples of lower body plyometric exercises include standing jumps like tuck jumps or split jumps, jump squats, standing long jumps, hops, and height jumps.  These can be added to the end of wind sprints for more challenge.

Example Workouts

When I do track workouts, I usually try to find a track at a local high school or college, especially if it’s nice outside.  These workouts can be modified to fit any size track, including smaller ones that you find in gyms.  If you can’t find a track, you can also do these workouts on the street, if you can find a relatively secluded and level road.

There are also so many options and varieties of workouts to do.  Think about where you want your target heart rate, and structure some intervals around your goals for the workout (duration, intensity, target heart rate).  You may want to consider wearing a heart rate monitor.  Below is just a small sample of some of the workouts I have tried in the past.

Example #1:

  • 1-2 laps walking/jogging warm-up
  • Wind Sprints around the track – For example, 100 m sprint, 100 m light jog/walk, 100 m sprint, 100 m light jog/walk.  Repeat 2-4 times.
  • One lap light jog/walk to bring your heart rate back down
  • Skip as much as you can around the track.  Walk as needed to recover (you will feel the burn!), but be sure to pick it up and skip again.  There should be more skipping than walking.  Repeat for 2-4 laps.  Skipping is a great exercise for the calves!
  • Wind Sprints – 50 m as fast as you can.  Turn around and walk back.  Repeat with no additional rest.  Perform about 6-10 of them depending on your endurance.
  • Do 6-10 more sprints backwards – Run 50 m backwards as fast as you can and then walk forwards back to starting place.  Repeat with no additional rest.  Be careful sprinting backwards.  Stay in control and don’t expect to go as fast as you do when you run forward!
  • 2 laps jog/walk to cool down

Example #2:

  • 1-2 laps walking/jogging warm-up
  • Chasses around the track - chasses on the straight parts of the track; turn and face forward and jog on the turns.  Perform one lap with chasses facing the inside of the track, and one lap with chasses facing the outside of the track.  Repeat 2 times for a total of 4 laps.
  • Plyometrics – Jump Squats.  Jump down 100 m of track space, landing each jump as deep in a squat position as you comfortably can.  Do not walk in-between jumps.  Jump the whole 100 m, and stay low.  Turn around and walk back to the start.  Repeat 3-5 times.
  • Grapevine around the track - grapevine on the straight parts of the track, and walk/jog the turns.  Repeat 2-4 times.
  • Finish with Wind Sprints – Sprint 50 m as fast as you can.  Turn around and walk back to the starting point.  Repeat with no additional rest.  Perform 6-10 of them depending on your endurance and the target duration of your workout.  Keep an eye on your heart rate as well.
  • Two laps jog/walk to cool down

Example #3:

This is a good workout to perform at a track that has bleachers for the audience.  Running bleachers can be a very good way to develop lower body strength and overall endurance.
  • Warm-up with a light walk/jog around the track, and include some skipping and chasses.
  • Wind Sprints – Sprint as hard/fast as you can on the straight away of the track, and walk around the turns.  Go 2-4 times around the track.
  • Run the Stairs – run as fast as you can up one stairway, then walk carefully down the other side.  Depending on the size of the bleachers, run stairs for about 10 minutes.
  • Bleacher Walks – I do "Step-up/Knee-up" walking up the actual bleacher seats, not the steps, with arms behind my head for about 10 minutes.
  • Walking Lunges – around the track one time
  • Plyometrics (Squat long jumps) – you can do these down the long jump runway or 50 m, with your arms crossed/hands on shoulders.  Squat as deep as possible, then explode up/out as far as possible.
  • One lap jog/walk for a cool down

Example #4:

  • 1-2 laps walking/jogging warm-up
  • Additional Dynamic Warm-up – High knee walk/skip/jogs, heel ups, skips, lunges for about 10 minutes
  • Wind Sprints – Sprint as hard/fast as you can on the straight away of the track, and walk around the turns.  Go 2-4 times around the track.
  • Run the Stairs – run as fast as you can up one stairway, then walk carefully down the other side.  Depending on the size of the bleachers, run stairs for about 10 minutes.
  • Plyometrics – use the bleachers to perform jumps (up and down) for about 60 seconds, with 30-60 seconds rest in between sets.  Perform 5 sets. 

Example #5:

This one can be completed in a shorter time frame (30-40 minutes).  It can also be performed away from a track.  You just need about 100 m of straight road.
  • 1-2 laps walking/jogging warm-up
  • 100 m light sprints - run at a good clip 100 m, and turn around and walk back.  Repeat 3-5 times.
  • 50 m hard sprints - same thing as above, 50 m hard sprint, and walk back.  Repeat 5 times.
  • Jump squats 50 m – jump 50 m with no walking in between.  Turn around and walk back.  Repeat 3 times.
  • Backwards sprints 50 m – run fast backwards 50 m, jog forward 50 m. Repeat 3-5 times.
  • Walking lunges – 50 m walking lunges, turn around and walk back.  Repeat 3 times.
  • One lap cool down walk/jog

Be Sure to Stretch!

Quite often, people are short with time for their workouts and don’t devote enough time to stretching.  It is extremely important to remember to stretch regularly, especially after hammering your lower body and legs with a track workout including sprints and plyometric exercises.  Stretching can help to increase range of motion and reduce/prevent injuries.  It can also help the muscles to grow.  Stretching after a workout, when the muscle is warm is a good idea, but stretching should be done carefully and correctly for the greatest benefits.  If you can’t take the time to stretch immediately following your workout, be sure to stretch at home.  It is important for muscle growth, strength, and recovery to maintain flexibility.  Do not bounce the muscle when stretching.  Muscles respond best to being stretched gradually.  Stretch slowly, hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds, and don’t forget to breathe!

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