How To Become A Better Distance Runner On The Track – 5 Easy But Effective Workouts

The track is the best place for a runner to practice for upcoming races or just to keep in shape. 

All runners, from sprinters all the way to marathon-runners can get a lot of benefit out of working out on the track. If you’ve never tried it, find a high school track near you and try running a few laps!

Today I’m here to help you get started with that by telling you about the best track workouts for distance runners!


What You Need to be a Successful Long-distance Runner

What You Need to be a Successful Long-distance Runner

Long-distance running is an art form all its own and, like any great art, you need both talent and hard work to be truly amazing at it.

For sprinters, speed is the most important thing in the world, but if you’re a distance runner, it’s just one of the things you need to balance along with endurance and more.

The most important thing becomes something else – that balance, the pacing of your run.

However, even so, you shouldn’t understate the benefits of speed training.

In recent years, speed training has proven to be incredibly beneficial for distance runners, and the way training is done has been redefined.

To train as a long distance runner, you need to do almost every kind of running exercise there is!

But that’s a bit too much to start with; I’ll give you a few tips on how to get going with your long-distance running training.

Start Out By Running Slower

Start Out By Running Slower

When you start running, you shouldn’t go all out straight away. Trying to push yourself to your limit from the offset will get you nowhere – except maybe a hospital bed.

This has two functions.

The first one is that you’ll have the time to enjoy running. Pushing yourself all the time results in pain and more pain, which you will start to associate with running, and it will make you hate it. Running should be an enjoyable activity, especially in long-distance running.

The second one is that it will allow you to slowly build up your endurance as you start to go faster and faster. Even if you’re a regular runner, you should still take time to run slower to avoid injury while keeping your body in shape.

Take More Steps

Take More Steps

The cadence of your run refers to the number of steps you take per minute while running. It might seem a bit counterproductive, but taking more steps while running leads to fewer injuries and better performance.

Here’s the idea behind it – the more steps you take, the less time your feet spend on the ground and the lesser the impact of each step.

If you take larger steps you lift your legs more, you extend them further, and you put more pressure on your feet when they land. In case you ever had a case of tight calves after running, running like this is bound to help you.

To run like this, you need to keep your feet under your body instead of extending your legs. Try to keep your feet level with your shoulders and achieve around 180 steps per minute.

The best way to train yourself is by having something to give you a rhythm. Try to find a song that has three beats per second and run to it.

The feeling will be awkward at first but after some five runs it should start to click, and you’ll run much better and with less risk.

Eat Well

Eat Well

Fueling yourself properly before, during and after a run is necessary to get the most out of your exercise regimen.

I had problems with this as well, like most new runners, but when I corrected my mistake, I saw a huge improvement.

Eating before running depends on what kind of run you’re going for.

If you’re going for a short, energetic run, you need to get a good shot of carbs and proteins in your body at least an hour before the run. Going for a 3 to 1 ratio of carbs and proteins is good while avoiding fat or fiber.

The longer the run you’re planning to take, the larger the meal should be. Still, it shouldn’t be more than a light snack – don’t overburden yourself with a full meal before running.

During a run, you shouldn’t be chomping on too much.

You will probably need water though if you’re running a larger distance. The amount of water you need varies on the heat and your size, but it shouldn’t be bouncing around in your stomach.

If you’re running for less than an hour and you’ve eaten beforehand, you won’t need to eat during the run.

Otherwise, you will need around 40 to 60 grams of carbs per hour to keep you going. You also need to replace your electrolytes which you can do with an energy bar or a sports drink.

After the run, you should eat as soon as possible, within the first 30 minutes.

You need a good mix of carbs and proteins, preferably 5 to 1, and here’s where you should intake carbs you usually can’t eat, like pasta or rice. This will help your body recover quickly and build up strength.

Treat Injuries Properly

Treat Injuries Properly

If you’re feeling under the weather or you’re having some pain, don’t just ignore it and try to “run through it” – make sure you find out what it is and take steps to deal with it.

Seemingly small problems like feeling hot spots on foot or the feeling of having a pebble in your shoe can be signs of serious problems like a sprained ankle or a torn tendon. 

Injuries like that will just get worse with time and if you have something like Morton’s Neuroma to “fix” it you will only be making it more severe.

Once you feel like you’re injured, take time off to heal and check what’s wrong before resuming your training.

To decrease the risk of injury, don’t push yourself and don’t do unnecessary things like running with ankle weights or working out three times per day.

The 5 Best Track Workouts for Long Distance Runners

The 5 Best Track Workouts for Long Distance Runners

What stops some runners from practicing on a track is a cyclical mindset – and by that I mean is that they hate going in circles and it seems pointless to them.

However, there’s more you can do on the track than just running in a circle like a dog chasing its tail.

Here, I’ll give you my thoughts on some of the best track workouts you can do if you are, or plan to become, a long distance runner.

1. Standard Speed Workout

Despite speed not being everything to a distance runner, you’ll still find it to be an important part of your arsenal, and it is crucial to develop it.

On a track, you can easily do repetitions of short sprints to build up your speed. Just make sure to rest properly and don’t run when something is hurting.

First, do four repetitions of 100-meter sprints and walk for two minutes between sprints to recover. You should rest for five minutes afterward.

Next, do the same amount of 60-meter sprints and the same amount of rest between them and after. Perform 2 or 3 sets of these.

To finish off, do four 30-meter sprints at your max power, rest with 2-minute walks between reps and take five minutes off between sets.

Do 2 or 3 sets in total. 

2. Endurance Workout

This is an important thing for a long-distance runner, and an exercise like this will allow you to get in that last, finish-line sprint when you think you’re done.

To do this, you’ll do a series of longer sprints at 80 percent of your full intensity, with little rests between them.

Start out with the longest distance, 800-meter sprints and do three of them. You should rest by walking for 90 seconds between the sprints.

After that move on to three 600-meter sprints with the same rest, then three 400-meter sprints, again with the same amount of rest.

Finally, you should finish off with sixteen 200-meter sprints while walking 30 seconds to rest between each one.

3. Ladder Workout

This workout helps build both speed and endurance at the same time.

It allows you to vary-up your pace and make the most out of your time. It’s best for training for a 5K, though it can be used for any race. 

If you’re a beginner, do this only once, but more experienced runners can do two or three reps, as needed.

  1.  5 minutes of walking
  2.  400 meters at your top pace
  3.  400 meters at a slow pace
  4.  800 meters at your top pace
  5.  400 meters at a slow pace
  6.  1200 meters at your top pace
  7.  400 meters at a slow pace
  8.  1600 meters at your top pace 
  9.  400 meters at a slow pace
  10.  5 minutes of walking

4. Pyramid Workout

This type of workout is designed to teach you how to pace yourself properly, so you don’t run out of gas too soon.

It starts slow, ramps up and then slows down again.

You should warm up before engaging in this exercise – a few laps of jogging will be enough.

1. Run 400 meters at around 80-90 percent of your maximum intensity, then walk until you get your breath back and jog until you do another 400 meters.

2. Run 800 meters at around 80-90 percent of your maximum intensity, then walk until you get your breath back and jog until you do another 400 meters.

3. Run 1200 meters at around 80-90 percent of your maximum intensity, then walk until you get your breath back and jog until you do another 400 meters.

4. Run 800 meters at around 80-90 percent of your maximum intensity, then walk until you get your breath back and jog until you do another 400 meters.

5. Run 400 meters at around 80-90 percent of your maximum intensity, then walk until you get your breath back and jog until you do another 400 meters.

That’s about it – it’s a simple but highly effective exercise.

5. The Long Run

One of the essentials in long distance training is “The Long Run,” the most significant exercise of the week.

As the name implies, it’s supposed to be your longest run, and you should push your limits with it each time.

Run at a slow, conversational pace and try to run as long as possible with no stops – that’s the gist of it. Here, you will most likely need water and some carbs to get you through it.

Doing the long run on a track allows you to stop at any point once you feel like you’ve done enough and you can rest straight away – you’re not bound by needing to return home or to your car.

The Final Word

The Final Word

Whether you’re a more experienced runner or a complete beginner, I hope you found this article to be at least a bit helpful.

There’s always more you can learn, and even I don’t have complete knowledge of everything – it’s important to always improve yourself.

If you’re interested in improving yourself, you can read some of the other articles on my blog or ask me questions in the comments if you want.

Until next time, keep running and stay safe!

Matt C.

Hi, I’m Matt, the man behind Empower Your Run. There's nothing quite like crossing your first finish line, and I hope one day you'll get the chance to experience that for yourself. Remember – “if you can walk, you can run” – and I'll be here guiding you every step of the way!