Track Workout Consistent Splits

Greg ReverdiauTraining Tips1 Comment

prescott high school track workout

Track Workout: Achieve Consistent Splits

Adding a track workout to your training routine is a must, whether you are training for a 5K or a marathon. Love them or hate them, they will quickly increase your level of fitness if completed correctly and consistently. The idea is to push yourself for a short to medium distance, over several repeats at 75-90% of your maximum abilities. Typical track workouts distances are 400m, 800m, 1200m or mile-repeat but can also be shorter or longer depending on your race goals. Our training plans (as well as our training camps) all include at least one track workout per week.

track workout consistent splits

A typical high-school or college track measure 400m, or a quarter mile. Four laps add up to a mile (or to be more precise, 0.9941 mi). While the rounding up from meters to miles works for most workouts, it is interesting to note that 24 laps is six sets of four laps which, if using the rounding-up method, would equal to 6 miles. However, 24 laps equals 9,600m, which converts to 5.96 miles. In the grand scheme of things, not much of a difference if you are doing mile repeats but worth noting.

In this article, I will share one of the tip I use every week to complete my track workout repeats with precision. Fair warning, it may sound confusing at first and it involves a little math. Fear not, give it a shot and I can guarantee you will use it every single time.

TURN OFF THE GPS

While I almost always recommend wearing a GPS watch if you have access to one, I think you should consider turning it off during your track workout. And what I really mean by that is: DO NOT TRUST YOUR GPS PACE. Your GPS watch, as accurate as it may be, will not give you the precision you need around the track. Don’t worry about losing track of your speed though, this is where my trick comes in.

Inconsistent GPS pace on track
Inconsistent pace recorded by my Garmin Epix GPS watch

The graph above is an extract from a 10km session I completed on the track. The goal was to maintain 5:50/mi pace, the watch recorded a 5:52/mi which is not bad for accuracy. However, you can clearly see the increases and decreases in pace recorded by the GPS watch. In reality, those splits were actually consistent to the tune of +/- one second per 100-meter. This can be explained by the fact that your GPS watch is confused by the rapid changes in direction when running on a track.

HOW TO SETUP YOUR GPS WATCH FOR TRACK WORKOUT

Fine, you want to keep that tan line on your left arm, I understand. Here’s what you can do with your Garmin (or any other brand). If you have the ability to add a new sport (called an App in the most recent generation of Garmin), go ahead and create one called “Track”. The only fields that you need are: LAP TIME and LAP DISTANCE. I add the LAP CADENCE but that’s a personal thing.

LAP TIME will essentially act as a stopwatch during your lap. This is your indication as to whether you are ahead or behind. A lap for me is 1600 meters, not just one lap around the track (400m). However, you are free to define your own lap.

LAP DISTANCE is just a good field to have so you don’t go an extra lap (or end up a lap short). Just remember that since your GPS accuracy is off, so will your distance.

But… If it’s not on Garmin it’s doesn’t count! Every Runner

No other field matters. On a side note, I setup the second page of my Track app to display LAST LAP PACE and LAST LAP TIME. I sometimes refer to it to make sure I hit my target during the last lap.

The last thing is, I turn OFF the auto-lap function. Because the GPS is not accurate, I like to push the lap button myself after 1600 meters and get an accurate time check.

Feel free to add total distance, total time, average page to another page but for the main page…

garmin epix create track app
don't use GPS pace on your track workout
last lap time on your garmin epix
A LITTLE MATH

One of the advantage of running on a track is that you have access to markings along the entire lap. The key to consistent splits during a track workout is to use those marking and applying a little math. There are several advantages to doing math on the track. First, it is great practice for when you start getting tired on race day and need to figure out if you are still on pace. Second, it helps reduce the boredom of Nascar-style running.

Your track workout could have been given to you in the form of a pace in minute per mile or goal time per repeat. Regardless of the format, the idea is to convert your goal time or pace to a number of seconds per lap (400 meters)

Here’s a simple example: run 1200 meter repeats at 6:30/mi pace. To keep it simple, that’s 6:30 minutes for 1600 meters (4 laps), or 3:15 for 800 meters (2 laps), or 1:37 per 400m, aka 97 seconds per lap. 

Now stay with me for a second. I know it’s gonna sound awfully complicated but it’s not… If you want ultimate consistency, use the marking on the track for each 100 meter increment. To achieve 97 seconds per lap (400 meter), you must run 24.5 second per 100 meter. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t count half seconds. So in this case, my goal for the lap would be, in seconds, 24 + 24 + 24 + 25 = 97 seconds. I basically make up the half second in the last 100m. Take a look at the figure below.

find your track combination for a workout
Convert your pace into seconds per lap first, and then into seconds per 100 meters.

So let’s think about this. The most important part right here is your seconds per 100 meters combination: 24/24/24/25 or as I simplify it: 4/4/4/5. Stay with me here, and read the following paragraph a few times to make sure you grasp it.

As shown in the figure above, my cumulative time looks like this: 0:24 at 100m, then I add 24 second to get to 0:48 at 200m, then add again 24 seconds to get 1:12 at 300m, and finally add 25 seconds to get 1:37 at 400m. This may seem complicated but think about it, all you need to worry about is the last digits: 4, 8, 2, 7. If I use my combination, and only use the last digits, here’s how it goes.

100m: 0 + 4 = 4
200m: 4 + 4 = 8
300m: 8 + 4 = 12 (use only last digit)
400m: 2 + 5 = 7

pace your track workout like a pro

Look at that! Using your simple 4/4/4/5 combination, you came up with each of the 100m splits for that lap. Again, all you have to remember is 4/4/4/5 before your workout. Then just keep adding each number to the last split.

Every time I hit a 100m mark, I look down at my stopwatch and make sure the last digit corresponds to the right split. If it says 7 when I hit 200m, I’m ahead by one second, if it says 9, I’m behind by one second and need to make it up.

Obviously each pace has a different combination, but it’s a one time deal you need to calculate before you head out to your track workout. How many different paces do you use during your workouts. Your 5K pace, your 10K pace, your half marathon pace, and your marathon pace (maybe)? That’s three or four combinations to remember, not bad.

Let’s look at another example, I’ll give you my workout from this afternoon: 6x1200m @ 5:45 pace. I’m a spreadsheet geek so I used Excel to calculate all my combinations. You can download my spreadsheet in the next paragraph. If you don’t, here’s a quick way to do it.

5:45 pace = 345 seconds (300 seconds in 5 minutes). Simply divide your pace in seconds per mile by 16 in order to get your pace in seconds per 100m. That’s 345/16=21.5 seconds/100m. Again, half seconds are hard to follow so in this case, we should plan for 21/22/21/22 or simply 1/2/1/2 combination. Note that it could be 1/1/2/2 or 2/2/1/1 or 2/1/2/1. When the combo is not even, I like the second number to be larger since it’s on the straight section of the track. Personal preference.

This means that during the 3 laps that comprise the 1200m repeat, I will be looking for the following numbers on my watch:

Lap 1: 1, 3, 4, 6: which is 0 + 1 = 1 + 2 = 3 + 1 = 4 + 2 = 6
Lap 2: 7, 9, 0, 2: which is 6 (from the previous lap) + 1 = 7 + 2 = 9 + 1 = 0 + 2 = 2
Lap 3: 3, 5, 6, 8: which is 2 (from the previous lap) + 1 = 3 + 2 = 5 + 1 = 6 + 2 = 8

This gets me at 1200m with a time that ends in 8 which, if you do the math, is 3:28, which happens to be exactly my goal time for 1200m at 5:45/mi pace! Again, all I had to remember is 1,2,1,2 and the rest of the math is done “on the fly” after each lap.

This guarantees you even splits all along, no need to accelerate or slow down during your track workout, simply look at the watch, add your combination to the last digit and hope you hit it on the next 100m mark! This method has allowed me to complete all my track workouts within less than 2 seconds of my goal time FOR EACH WORKOUT!

Feel confused. Read the article again and calculate your combination and hit the track to figure it out. Leave me a comment if you have additional questions.

CALCULATE YOUR COMBINATION AUTOMATICALLY

For your convenience, I have included the spreadsheet I use to calculate my combinations. It’s fairly basic. Simply enter your desired pace in the yellow area (two different fields, one for minutes, one for seconds), it will automatically generate your combination. Remember that you can move the numbers of your combination around at will. 4/4/5/4 could be 4/4/4/5 or any other combo you want. Enjoy!

Download (XLSX, 38KB)

About the Author

Greg Reverdiau

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Greg Reverdiau is the founder of High-Altitude Training Institute and a certified VDOT O2 distance running coach. He is accomplished athlete who competes in a variety of event from 5Ks to Marathons and Half and Full Ironman Triathlons. Read more about Greg…


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