In­door Track Train­ing Tips and Tricks

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Features - BY KEVIN MACKIN­NON

MORE AND MORE of the sport’s elite are spend­ing an in­creas­ing amount of their train­ing time in­doors. In Canada, that of­ten makes even more sense dur­ing the win­ter months, when snow and ice, not to men­tion the cold tem­per­a­tures, can make train­ing out­side an or­deal.

Com­pet­i­tive run­ners are no strangers to spend­ing some of their win­ter train­ing time in­doors, of­ten do­ing two or three work­outs on an in­door track. Typ­i­cally 200 m long, half the dis­tance of a classic out­door track (there are a few 400 m in­door tracks in Canada, but they are rare), in­door track train­ing, done in mod­er­a­tion and with some care, can be a use­ful tool for triath­letes look­ing to im­prove their run­ning.

Why head in­doors

Apart from the ob­vi­ous “get out of the cold and avoid the snow for some de­cent speed­work” an­swer to this ques­tion, in­door train­ing can pro­vide some use­ful tech­ni­cal ben­e­fits for triath­letes look­ing to get faster. Run­ning fast is all about turnover – you only ac­tu­ally move your­self forward when your foot is touch­ing the ground – and the shorter 200 m track and the tight turns will force you to work on that part of your run­ning stride. Like a tread­mill or bike trainer, you’ll also en­joy a con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment with­out any wind or other el­e­ments to deal with dur­ing your work­out.

Those tight cor­ners can also be a detri­ment for in­door train­ing, lead­ing to var­i­ous overuse in­juries if you’re not care­ful. I don’t like to have the triath­letes I coach on the in­door track (or the out­door track, for that mat­ter) more than once a week and also en­sure that we build into the ses­sions very grad­u­ally to avoid injury.

Rules of the game

Just as it’s im­por­tant to fol­low lane eti­quette in the pool, it’s re­ally im­por­tant that you keep these gen­eral track-train­ing rules in mind as you head in­doors for a work­out:

1. Run in the cor­rect lane, at the cor­rect time

Most in­door tracks will have set times for clubs or teams, so make sure you check that you are al­lowed to be on the track when you’re plan­ning on do­ing your run. Com­pet­i­tive track and field ath­letes will fly through their in­ter­val ses­sions, of­ten in spikes, so you don’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. You es­pe­cially don’t want to be “that” run­ner who got in the way of some­one’s work­out. (Pic­ture try­ing to do a hard bike set on a bike path full of cruiser bikes.) Com­pet­i­tive track run­ning will al­ways be done in a counter-clock­wise di­rec­tion, but some tracks will switch to a clock­wise di­rec­tion to re­duce the stress on one side of the body for reg­u­lar par­tic­i­pants.

2. Look be­fore you cross and start

Those fast track run­ners can be mov­ing much faster than you think, so make sure you have a look be­fore you cross the track to make sure no one is coming your way. As you are start­ing your in­ter­val or run, make sure you have a good look be­hind to en­sure that no one is do­ing an in­ter­val and run­ning up be­hind you.

3. Run in the ap­pro­pri­ate lane

Some tracks will des­ig­nate dif­fer­ent lanes for dif­fer­ent speeds. Of­ten the outer lanes of the track will be for faster run­ning as those lanes aren’t as tight in the cor­ners and thus more gen­tle on the joints. Some tracks will have an outer lane for warm­ing up – make sure you use that for your easy run­ning be­fore you start your work­out.

4. Stay to the in­side

When you’re do­ing your set, re­mem­ber to stay to the in­side of the lane. Faster run­ners will as­sume that you’re go­ing to stay there and run around you. The worst thing you can do to a fast-mov­ing trackie is move to the out­side of the lane as they rapidly ap­proach you, de­spite the fact that you might think you’re be­ing nice.

5. Do a shoul­der check be­fore coming off the track

As you’re fin­ish­ing an in­ter­val and want to move to the in field to take a break, have a quick look to make sure no one is coming up be­hind you. (Yes, I know they’re sup­posed to pass on the out­side, but some­times peo­ple are not pay­ing at­ten­tion or might be also fin­ish­ing their set and mov­ing in­side, too.)


The sky is the limit when it comes to cre­at­ing in­door work­outs. Here are a few ba­sic sets that will get you started: 200S/ 400S

One loop around the track might seem like an aw­fully short in­ter­val set for a triath­lete, but I love this dis­tance as a way to work on your bot­tom end speed. To en­sure that peo­ple aren’t push­ing too hard and try­ing to run too fast (thus be­ing more sus­cep­ti­ble to injury), I like to do these in­ter­vals with a short re­cov­ery, mak­ing this a great set for work­ing on your anaer­o­bic thresh­old. So, a typ­i­cal set might con­sist of blocks of 4 x 200 m in­ter­vals with a short re­cov­ery (15 to 30 sec­onds). We do a 200 to 400 m jog in be­tween sets and then re­peat any­where from three to five more times. You can do a sim­i­lar type set dou­bling the dis­tance to 400 m in­ter­vals and re­peat­ing one or two more times.


A classic lad­der set on the track can also be a great way to work on your pac­ing. You start with a 200 m in­ter­val at your goal pace. Af­ter a short break, do 400 m at the same pace. Then 600, 800 and 1,000 m in­ter­vals, all hold­ing the same pace.

So, if you’re look­ing for some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent this win­ter that will be both fun and of­fer a chance to work on your run splits next sum­mer, give an in­door track a try. You might find it will be just the trick to get your legs mov­ing and al­low you to nail the fi­nal leg of your next triathlon.

In ad­di­tion to be­ing the editor of Triathlon Magazine Canada, Kevin Mackin­non has been coach­ing track and field ath­letes for more than 20 years.

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