How I Became a Trackstar in 8 Weeks
Ever heard the saying, "To race fast, you must train fast"? Well, I have to. But for the longest time, those words fell on deaf ears. Because up until recently, I haven't been willing to devote the time and effort to becoming a faster racer. Plus, the track always seemed like a daunting playground for a recreational runner like me. Heaven forbid I stumble into a lane that belongs to true trackstar passing by. Plus, all of those confusing lines, topped with the 50:50 possibility of running in the completely wrong direction, were more than enough reasons for me to stick to my leisurely neighborhood routes.
But a little over 2 months ago, I put my foot down (...no pun intended). I got fed up with the pacing plateau I hit over the past year, and I decided it was time to break some records again. So I made up my mind that if I wanted to be quicker on my toes, then I must actually spend some time training to be more Bolt-like. All of the perplexing track lanes, potential trackstar glares, and sore quads included.
So for the past 8 weeks, I pumped the breaks on my long distance running, and introduced shorter track workouts to my regimen. And to make it a true science project, I hit the track 2x a week and recorded every speed statistic of every run. Here is a peek at what that weekly workout schedule looked like:
Tuesdays: 1/2-mile warm-up, one timed 1-mile run + 10 hill sprints, 1/2-mile cool-down. (The hill sprints weren't timed, but I pushed myself as hard as I could up the hills, then recovered on the way down with a brisk walk.)
Thursdays: 1/2-mile warm-up, four 400m repeats with 1 minute rest in between each run, followed by ten 100m repeats with 30 seconds in between each sprint, 1/2-mile cool-down. The goal for each rep was to have a negative split from the rep before it. (Keyword, goal. 'Cus in reality, I think it only happened a few times.)
Other workouts: Outside of the workouts listed above, I also stayed active off the track 3-4 days of the week. On these days, I would run lower-intensity distance runs, do yoga, or strength-train my arms, back, and legs.
Over these 8 weeks, I specifically trained three distances: 100m, 400m, and 1-mile. I ran the same track for every workout, I used the same timing device, and I wore the same sneakers for each run. So in theory, with these factors controlled, the results should speak for themselves:
Week 1: Best time was 0:17, worst time was 0:21. Week 8: Best time was 0:17, worst time was 0:18. Outcome: While my fastest time didn't improve, I shed a couple of seconds off of my slowest time. So that tells me my endurance for speed improved.
Week 1: Best time was 1:30, worst time was 1:43. Average time (out of 4 laps) was 1:37. Week 8: Best time was 1:22, worst time was 1:30. Average time (out of 4 laps) was 1:26. Outcome: In addition to improving my fastest time by 8 seconds, I also cut a little over 10 seconds off my average lap time for each week! Also, my average lap time consistently decreased every week by about 1-4 seconds!! This was a huge accomplishment for me.
Week 4: Time was 6:52. Week 8: Time was 6:49. Outcome: I only introduced the 1-mile distance to my experiment at Week 4, so unfortunately the results aren't as impressive as I would hope. However, I was still able to see a slight decrease in time during these four short weeks. (I'm still gunnin' for a better time, so I'll update you in 4 more weeks with some more impressive results. 😉 )
How It Affected My Body
I'm not going to lie to you: I had a mild heart-attack when I stepped on the scale after this experiment to discover that I gained about 4 pounds. But my boyfriend sweetly reminded me that I probably just packed on some hard-earned muscle. And it makes total sense too, because my diet didn't really change over these past few weeks, but I can say that my quads have become visibly stronger and larger (about time!) And to put the cherry on top, all of that HIIT cardio did some favors to my midsection, which feels slightly leaner, and my abs are a bit more pronounced. (I mean, that right there makes it all worth it! 🙌 )
A true science project isn't complete without some lessons learned, so now it's time for me to wrap it all up with some overly sentimental takeaways 😜 :
1) I hate to admit it, but my mom was right.
I'm sure y'all already know what I'm about to say here (and I apologize for the corny storybook ending), but these 8-weeks reaffirmed the 🧀 -ey words our moms used to bug us with at bedtime: anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Because in all honesty, I went into this 8-week trial thinking I'd walk away with nothing more than some worn out Nike's. But I gave these past 2 months everything I had: my focus, my dedication, and my heart. And even though I didn't take home any Olympic times, I won the confidence of knowing I pack a lot of potential in these little legs of mine.
2) Track-stars are part of the #runningfam too.
These speed-demons aren't the territorial snobs I always pictured them to be. In fact, the folks I met out on the track were some of the nicest, most encouraging athletes I've come across. Fun little story for ya: on a random Tuesday, I snuck out early to the track, where I was surprised to find the men's college team practicing as well. So instead of shying away from my plans, I hopped in lane 6 and discretely hustled beside them. After my workout, I was heading to my car when one of the collegiate sprinters came over and told me, "Hey, great work out there." I accepted his compliment with a cool "thanks, you too," but on the inside, he made me feel like a total rockstar. I busted my butt out there, and for someone who was 20x faster to acknowledge how hard I was working, felt downright incredible.
3) We all need some speed.
If you haven't already introduced speedwork into your running regimen, it's time to hit the track. Believe it or not, introducing sprints to my regimen has already made me a more well-rounded runner and I've seen improvements in my speed, pacing, and endurance in my regular runs. And according to this fun little article, speed work will actually improve your running form: giving you a more erect posture and putting more bounce in your step. Plus, my favorite part about swapping a long-distance LISS run for a track workout: it takes less than half as long to complete (aka, more time to grub... 🌮+🍝+🍞 )
So going forward, my plan is to include at least one #trackdate in my schedule each week. Not gonna lie, it took some discipline to drive 10 miles out to the nearest track every other day, but looking back, it was one of the best decisions I could've made for my running goals. Because seriously, what is cooler than having flames come out from under your feet when you're kickin' ass across a finishline?? 😜 🔥