Back in 2013 when I was training for the Boston Marathon, my training plan, like most, included weekly track and speed work. At that moment in our lives, our time was very limited. I had a young family and my husband was working long hours, but we made the commitment for me to leave the house early Tuesday nights so that I could make the 45 minute drive to a high school track that was open to the public.
I’m not going to lie, it was a lot of driving, my family had to sacrifice some of their time, and it ended up not being the most convenient. It was only 16 weeks, and turned out pretty well for me ( I ended up with a marathon PR), but unless I was going for another PR, it was a big race like Boston, or if I was at a different time in my life, I might not make that sacrifice.
There are many ways to get interval work in without a track. In fact, many coaches and plans can accommodate for the lack of an “Oval Office”. I have found over the years that it’s best to use one, but not necessary. I like the track because it’s flat, most are made of Tartan (a soft polyurethane material that is ideal for all types of weather), but doing alternative speed work is effective as well.
Here are few ideas when there is no “Oval Office” to get your work done.
A Park – In many neighborhoods there are parks that have a loop or circle path. Obviously, they are not going to be the exact length of a track, but they will provide a level surface and you can use your GPS to determine the length. Once you have this established, you can use landmarks or your GPS to determine when to stop or start your recovery. What I like about this is that if the park is close to your house, you can use the distance to get there as a warm up.
Hills – Hills are often referred to as speed work in disguise. Doing hill repeats once or twice a month builds strength and power. Bursting up hills is also a great way to produce the beloved, “Runner’s High.” Try doing hill repeats once or twice a month to keep your speed work really fun and interesting. Here is more on the Benefits of Hill Sprints. and a wonderfully detailed article on everything Hills by Run To The Finish– Running Hills Tips.
Fartlek’s – First off, let’s define the term “Fartlek.”
Fartlek’s can be done anywhere. These are simply organized pick ups while you are out on your run. These can also be done if you are bored of doing speed work on the track. Depending on how serious you are about your training, and what you goals are, Fartlek’s can be an effective way to train for a race. I personally, have successfully used this method for previous training plans. They may need to be done in a more organized way if you have a specific goal in mind on race day, but any speed work is better than none if you plan on improving your time.
Treadmill – Sometimes it’s not a matter of not having access to a track, but perhaps you are limited by bad weather or having to care for small children. In these cases, which I have experienced both, I turn to the mechanical workhorse… the treadmill. You can do multiple workouts and many devices have a built in screen that can be set to “Track” so that you even have a visual idea of how far you are going. I find this to be very useful and motivating.
For great round up, head over to FitFluential for some workout ideas.
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How about you? Do you have access to a track? Have you ever trained for a race without an “Oval Office?”