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How to do quality workouts away from the track

If you don't have access to a track (or you hate the track), here are some other ways to build strength and speed during the off-season

Lots of runners, especially those with a track background, do regular track interval workouts as part of their training, but many don’t. The good news is, if you don’t have access to a track (or don’t like the track), there are lots of ways to get your quality workouts done on the roads or trails. This is especially good news for those who like to train outside year-round.

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When doing speed work on the road, you have the option of either guesstimating an interval distance, measuring it off with your GPS, or running by time instead of distance. Lee McCarron, head coach of the Halifax Road Hammers, recommends simply doing timed workouts. His group, which consists of runners of all ages training for everything from the 5K to the marathon, works out at various locations in Halifax, including Terminal Road, Point Pleasant Park, Halifax Commons, and the BLT trail.

McCarron (left, in black) pacing Michael Bergeron to a Guinness World Record for fastest marathon while joggling three objects at the 2018 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Photo: Chris Young/Canada Running Series

Here are several workouts McCarron uses. Pace can be varied, depending on what you’re training for (marathon race pace, VO2 max, tempo, etc.). Most coaches recommend keeping the pace consistent for your different workouts, while varying the volume of work depending on where you are in your training cycle, i.e. workouts may be anywhere from 35 to 50 per cent shorter duration during the off-season.  

Fartlek ladder

1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1, where the numbers represent minutes of hard running, with a minute’s recovery (slow jogging) between efforts. Altogether 25 minutes of hard effort and eight minutes of recovery, for a total 33 minutes’ workout, not including warmup and cooldown.

Timed interval workouts

10 x 2 mins, with 1 minute’s rest (slow jogging) between repeats, which is 20 minutes’ hard effort and 10 minutes’ recovery, total 30 minutes, not including warmup and cooldown.

8 x 3 mins, 1 minute’s rest (slow jogging) between repeats, which is 24 minutes’ hard effort and eight minutes’ recovery, total 32 minutes, not including warmup and cooldown. 

5 x 5 mins, 30 seconds’ rest (slow jogging) between repeats, which is 25 minutes’ hard effort and 2.5 minutes’ recovery, total 27.5 minutes, not including warmup and cooldown.