Hit the Fast Lane: The 5K Track Workout
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Hit the Fast Lane: The 5K Track Workout

Fly through your next 5K -- or beyond -- with this secret-weapon track workout. "Training on a track can teach you how to finish a race faster," says Mike McGuire, the women's cross-country coach for the University of Michigan. On your mark...

Push the Pace

Rev stronger. To prime your body to push it, tack five to seven pickups on to your usual warm-up jog, steadily increasing speed for 50 meters (one-eighth of a lap) and recovering for one minute in between.

Clock in every 200 meters. Tracks are typically 400 meters (in lane one); keeping tabs at the halfway point will help you stay on pace. Got a watch timer? McGuire suggests presetting it to beep on your pace (every 200 or 400 meters, for example) so you'll know if you're behind or ahead without checking your wrist.

Change lanes. Pick lane one for your speedier segments, and move to the outside lane, which is about 50 meters longer, for the easier stretches. "Switching helps you mentally prep for varying paces," McGuire says. The wider outside turns are also easier on your joints.

The Plan

This legendary University of Michigan track session, dubbed "The Michigan," alternates challenging paces to train your body to run hard on race day. "Your heart rate is never way up or way down during this routine," coach Mike McGuire explains, "so your body learns an energy system you wouldn't tap into by doing just flat-out sprints." Warm up for 10 minutes at an easy pace.

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Distance (meters) Pace
1,200 Run slightly faster than your 5K race pace (80 to 85 percent effort) for 3 laps.
400 Recover with a jog for 1 lap (2 to 2 1/2 minutes).
1,000 Run 2 1/2 laps at tempo (80 to 85 percent effort).
400 Recover with a jog for 1 lap.
800 Run 2 laps at 80 to 85 percent effort.
400 Jog for 1 lap.
400 Run 1 lap hard.
Cool-down Run easy for 10 minutes.
Originally published in FITNESS Magazine, May 2014