Sometimes simple is good. Use this track workout to build not only physical, but also mental toughness.

Sometimes simple is good. Use this track workout to build not only physical, but also mental toughness.

This week’s workout takes us to a place most triathletes might not want to go: the track. Yes, almost every high school in America has one, but there’s a good chance many multisporters haven’t run around in an oval since they got their driver’s license. And even though very few tris are as flat as that oblong, laned pancake, we have a lot to learn from a well-placed track session.

The short intervals allow us to break out of the rut of constant aerobic plodding; the speed you’ll need during this session will also help put your form in a more efficient, powerful place. You’ll learn about pacing—improper pacing during this workout can mean a death sentence. You’ll also learn about mental toughness, as running around in constant circles can help you find the psychological zone you’ll need during the lonely miles of a desolate run course.

It’s actually because of this track workout’s simplicity that you can modify it to make an even more challenging brick workout with the addition of a trainer and a bike. Look for modifications below.

The “Tower of 200s” is best done after you’ve had a month or two of base training under your legs. You should have already done a few tempo, fartlek, and/or build runs before diving into this one because your legs will need a bit of speed to start. Triathletes focusing on sprints and Olympic-distance racing should try to push the pace a little early in the workout—don’t be afraid to go out a little too fast and maybe fade later the first time you try this. Ironman and 70.3 long-coursers should hold back the first set a little bit and instead focus on getting into a rhythm of perfectly even splits. The learning curve on this session is a little steep for pacing, so if you struggle badly the first time, use what you’ve learned to try it again.

Also, be sure to plan for a light day of cycling both before and after this session—if you swim before you hit the track, keep it aerobic, if you swim after, expect that pool session to be pretty tough. You’ll need a day or two to recover from this workout, and be sure to stretch your calves particularly well post-run, as you’ll be up on your toes more often than normal.

10 minutes easy jogging
5 minutes of plyometrics like leg swings, skips, bounding, butt-kicks, and high knees
4 x 100m strides, building to a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 8/10, taking full recovery between each one

Main Set:
6 rounds of
(5 x 200m at an RPE of 7/10, with 200 easy jog between repeats
Extra 200m easy jog at the end of each round)

5 minutes easy jogging

Not tough enough? Turn this tower into one made of bricks by reducing it to 3 rounds and adding 1 minute of easy riding right into 2 minutes at 6/10 before the first round and between each one (finish the main set running). Remove the 400m jog between rounds, but keep the 200m easy jog between repeats.

More one-hour workouts