The following post was written by Coco B. who blogs at Running With Perseverance and is part of POPSUGAR Select Fitness.

I've been running for almost 15 years, but until a few weeks ago I had done all of my speed workouts on the treadmill. Even though every training plan I've ever seen includes track workouts, I was too intimated by the terminology and too unsure of what to do to give it a try. I recently joined a running group that meets for weekly track workouts, so I finally had someone who could explain it all to me. Now that I've figured it out, I am excited to be able to take my speed workout outside.

If you are mystified by track workouts, here are some basics to get you started.

What the Numbers Mean

A track workout may be written out something like this:

6 x 400, 200 recovery 
4 x 800, 400 recovery  
3 x 1600, 600 recovery (or some combination of these and other variations)


To understand what this all means, it helps to keep in mind that one lap around a standard track is 400 meters (and four times around a track is equal to one mile). So, the first workout listed above is running fast for one lap around the track and then recovering for 1/2 lap before doing it again, for a total of six times.

Some plans will give you a target pace for each type of workout (based on a recent race finish time), while others are more loosely based on what would be your 5K pace, your 10K pace, etc. The important thing to keep in mind is that the longer the distance you are tasked at running fast, the slower your pace should be and also the longer your recovery should be. 

The Workout

When you get to the track, the first thing you should do is warm up. I like to start with a one-mile warmup (four easy laps around the track) and then spend a few minutes stretching. Before you start a speed workout, it also can be a good idea to do a few "striders," which is a fancy name for short sprints, such as sprinting the length of one straight segment of the track. 

Once you are warmed up, it's time to knock out your speed workout. It shouldn't be easy, but if you have a hard time recovering for the next repeat, you might need to adjust your pace. And, if you feel any twinges that don't disappear after a few steps, it's probably a good idea to stop to make sure you aren't on the verge of injury.

When you have done all of your repeats, you should run a few easy laps to cool down. Then you can finish your workout with some stretches and maybe even a few planks to strengthen your core. 

Running Faster Outside  

The first few times I ran at the track, I was surprised at how fast my pace was. Even though I feel like I push myself on the treadmill, I never would have set the treadmill speed that high. I think running naturally — without the forced mechanics of the treadmill belt — helps me feel more comfortable asking my body to go faster, and the fresh air and scenery at the track makes it that much more enjoyable.

Do you do speed workouts at the track? 

How are you taking your workouts outside?