Training for track events is more than just running to “get in shape.” For peak performance in track, you’ll need to coordinate your training to help you build muscle, train the correct cardiovascular system and improve muscular endurance and speed–without interfering with one while working on another. Understanding the different physical requirements you need to succeed at track will help you get out of the starting block on your way to appropriate training.
Different training methods target specific areas of track fitness.
Overspeed training helps you move your muscles more quickly than you can move them by yourself. An example of overspeed training would be to attach a resistance cord to your waist or chest and have a partner pull you as you run toward her. This extra assistance will help your leg muscle move faster than if you ran unassisted. Running down a steep hill helps your muscles work faster with the assistance of gravity.
Surprisingly, running while resisted, even though it slows you down, helps train overspeed if you follow it with unresisted running immediately after. If you run with a weighted vest or resistance cord holding you back, when you remove the vest or cord, your central nervous system will still be set to work against the weight or resistance. When you start running, your CNS will have your muscles working as hard as if they were being resisted and propel you faster than normal. This will only last for a short period of time, so use three sets of resisted/unresisted exercises in your training.
Train the Correct Muscle Fibers
If you are a sprinter, muscle-building exercises or aerobic exercises train your tonic, or low-twitch muscle fibers. As you get closer to your time of desired peak performance, you’ll want to stop doing exercises or workouts that do not mirror how your muscles are used in your event. Train at higher levels of intensity with quicker movements, similar to those you use in your races.
Include Anaerobic Training
If you run sprints, you’ll call on your body’s anaerobic energy system. You work at an anaerobic level when your heart rate is 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Train for sprints with short bouts of high-intensity training with a dedicated recovery period to help strengthen your anaerobic energy system. Begin with 30 seconds of exercise at high intensity with a 90-second recovery period. As you build your ability to work at this heart rate, increase your workouts gradually until you can work at this level for 90 seconds to two minutes, with two minutes of recovery.
Static stretching, or holding a stretch, not only does not help increase performance and reduce the risk of injury before activity, it actually decreases your power and vertical jump, according to researchers at Wichita State University. Use dynamic stretching, which is movements such as high-knee skipping, jumping jacks and quick lunges, less than 30 minutes before your race. After your race is the time for static stretching, which helps increase flexibility and prevent muscle soreness and stiffness later.