Track athletics is one of sport’s “timed disciplines” in which your form will be improved and perfected over many years. Basic human movements like running, jumping and throwing can be performed here. That is reason enough to do the training requirements. While athletic stadiums for the public are disappearing at an alarming rate, there is a lot of potential for training in stadiums. It’s not just track and field athletes who can use athletics tracks for their competitions and performance, but free time athletes can also effectively use this surface for their training. In the rest of the blog I will discuss the training properties of athletics tracks.  

My experience training on the track

Last summer I passed the athletics exam of my sport degree. The disciplines that I prepared for were hurdles, medicine ball toss, 200m, 400m, shot put, 1000m, high jump and long jump. This meant lots of training on the “track”.  Early on, and fully justifiably, me and my classmates received advice from our lecturers to familiarise ourselves with using spikes in training. This was to prevent against the symptoms of overuse (a frequently occurring problem in the periostitis in the tibia).
brooks block leg
Track workout in spikes reduces the risk of injury during competition
Track athletes call our shoes spikes, because the sole is equipped with small nails in the forefoot area. The type of surface determines the length of the spikes; 6mm for tartan and around 12mm for clay, so we can get a better grip on the ground. Spikes are very similar to football studs but we only use metal instead of plastic ;-)   Obviously, you don’t have to use spikes when training on tartan tracks. However, the track is an unusual terrain for many free time runners who are mainly used to soft forest tracks. The track is a useful supplement for athletes and makes the pursuit of new ambitions possible, through interval training for example.
shoes spiked
Shoes with spikes
Spikes were primarily not designed to improve your health, but rather optimise performance. Amongst nearly all the running and sprint disciplines, track athletics fundamentally has the most the active foot strike. It enables a continuously forward motion and catapults the athlete down the track. Enormous ground impact forces are in effect here (anyone who wants to delve deeper into the figures can get in touch). This can subject the athlete’s body to stress through heavy loading (knees, tendons, ligaments, muscles, joints etc.) – depending on body weight, fitness, training experience and the related adjustments to training.  

Advantage of training on the track

The main advantage of tartan tracks is the effective imprint with jogging, running and sprinting, based on running events and training. Additionally, interval training can be optimally undertaken on the track, as it’s possible to run exact distances on the track. The athletics stadium or even just a 400m track are good places for athletes to take part in collective training units, or even to get to know new athletes and friends. Interval training can be really diverse and varying on the track. For example, with a partner you can take turns running in both an inside or outside lane, or you can try and chase down the runner in front of you.  
male group running
in pursuit, outer and inner track, to overtake your partner
The track is brilliant for improving your running economy and efficiency. For example, you can perfect your straight line running by focusing on the lane lines. The ABC-run can be optimally implemented on the track and can fundamentally improve your running style. It shouldalso be a regular part of your training. This includes ankle work, skipping, high knees, high heel flicks to your behind, as well as impact running, jogging and other specific athletics forms. In general, coordination running should be around 15 to 25 minutes long and shouldn’t be stopped abruptly, but rather have a 10 to 15 minute cool down. ABC-runs stabilise your feet arches and ankles, if it is completed barefoot on grass. This exercise also trains accuracy and linearity if it is done on a line. It improves the four phases of sprinting, in terms of legs they are:
  1. The back support phase (high knees, skipping)
  2. The back momentum phase (high heel flicks to your behind)
  3. The  front momentum phase (skipping, high knees) and
  4. The  front support phase (jogging)
running track
Technical training on the tartan track
  Track training is very strenuous and intensive (interval training). I recommend running shoes without strong cushioning, so you can feel the imprint on the track and take in the feeling of the tartan. I really like my Adidas Adizero Tempo 5 for track training. Above all, the CONTINENTAL outer sole has good grip for the track, but this is also included in other models ;-) tempo 5 adidas adizerotempo 5 adidas adizero 2   The bottom line is: training on tartan tracks is a useful alternative to the habitual running on forest trails. Interval training on the track can clearly lead to performance. From my own experience I find track training to be very intensive and strenuous. Consequently you should also, when possible, do some regenerative exercises. For example: a cool down on grass to relieve your arches, or quickly refresh your legs in a cold body of water. In addition, you can also do some barefoot running in a sandpit or a beach volleyball court. You will be aware of your toes pulling forward in the sand, and combine this with a soft cool down in the sand. Caution is required on wet tracks, as your grip decreases so you can easily slip on the bends.   So, get to the track! Who constantly wants to just feel the ground under your feet?! ;-)