How to Run Track Workouts on a 400m Outdoor Track (infographic)

Track workouts have been a staple of distance runner’s training programs for decades. And for good reason!

Distances are standardized so you always know exactly how far you’ve run.

The surface promotes speed (but results in less impact stress than the road).

And because the distances are measured so precisely, you always know how fast you’re running – unlike GPS watches, which aren’t always so accurate.

But unless you ran Track & Field in high school or college, you might not be aware of exactly how to use an outdoor track.

Just look at this text from a friend:

Track Etiquette

The many lanes, lines, starting lines, and markings can be confusing if you’re not familiar with them. Running a track workout won’t be helpful if you’re not sure how to do it!

To help, I’ve created an infographic all about how to run track workouts, proper track etiquette, and helpful tips for new runners.

Track Workouts 101 – Infographic!

Click on the image to view a larger version. 

Track Infographic

Click here to see a large version of this track infographic.

Track workouts don’t have to be intimidating. With this handy infographic, now you know how to run various distances, what etiquette is appropriate on the track, and what most of those odd markings actually mean.

Click here to share this infographic on Twitter – or feel free to pin it on Pinterest!

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  1. This is great Jason. Thanks for sharing.

    One question. How can we best use the track to do speed work? Where should we start/ stop when doing fartlek’s and using a track?

    I find it is the best place for me to do this work when training but I honestly am not sure I am doing it right. I will do something like jog around the turns and use the straight aways as the fast pace part of speed training. Is this right or even effective?

    • Fartleks are best done off the track. When you run a workout on a track, you run for distance, while for fartlek workouts you run for time.

      Well is that workout “right?” I don’t know! It could be. You can run almost any type of workout on a track – you just have to know how to structure them and when to do them in your training.

  2. I would argue on #4 that as an athlete / human – someone who is oriented largely to their left due to natural anatomical asymmetries and right handed tendencies – that it would be beneficial to run around a track clock-wise (i.e to their right).

    It feels weird, yes, but this is good sign that we need more work here.

    • Regardless of what’s beneficial, it’s standard practice to run counter-clockwise on a track.

      • Standard yes, and if sharing a lane I would agree. But continual running in counter clock wise direction can increase muscle imbalance problems. I always try to reverse some of the reps in a track session. Generally not a problem provided #1 is observed

    • At least do this in an outer lane, or when nobody else is using the track. Otherwise, expect people to be annoyed and expect you to yield to them.

  3. Just thought I would share a couple lessons I have learned from my daughter’s college coach. 1. IF you are not a purist on distance, run laps from inner to outer to encourage negative splits by keeping the split times the same. 2. If you do a lot of track workouts, it is good to run backward laps on occasion when the track is not crowded.

    • I really like the idea of working from inner to outer lanes. The majority of my time on the track is in lane 1. However, speeding up the pace to close the gap because of extra distance in the lanes seems like a good challenge to mix things up. Though I wonder if this would confuse my Garmin?

      • Why would you use a Garmin on a track? Everything is measured for you – and Garmins are notoriously inaccurate on the track. Just use the stopwatch but remember distances are only accurate in lane 1 (400m – 1 lap in lane 1 only)

        • Scott Smith says:

          Logging. HRM. Cadence monitor. Agreed that the GPS aspect is worthless on the track.

  4. Howard Elakman says:

    Have not had a chance to review it completely. Will attempt to copy and read it at my leisure. It basically looks as though it can be helpful.

  5. Kristin B says:

    Thank you for sharing Jason! I have a track a block away from my home. Thing is, it intimidates the heck out of me. What appears to be a beautiful, simple thing and I end up feeling like I have never run before when I step onto it. This helps!

  6. Hi Jason,

    If I am doing 400 meter repeats how long should the recovery be in between each interval? What do you recommend. Thanks!

  7. Scott Smith says:

    “TIPS … Reserve the track for faster workouts”

    I have also used a track for pace training/assessing my sense of pace. An example was running 400s with target times alternating between 2:15 (easy) and a medium or hard pace (anything 1:30 and 1:55). The last time doing this, I learned that I have a bit of work to do as I was ofter 5-15 seconds faster than target and occasionally slower.

    Is there something better for developing a sense of what different paces feel like?

    • Hey Scott,

      I think it’s a lot of practice and trial and error. I spent 8 years running on a track probably on an average of twice per week – running everything from a flat out sprint to tempo pace and occasionally easy pace just to gauge pace. The thousands of track workouts I’ve done at all different paces has helped my sense of pace immensely.

      While I’m not quite as good at it now, there was a time when I could run any pace from 800m to tempo pace intuitively within a few seconds. It’s a learned skill and it takes time.

  8. This is a great infographic. I’m pinning it.

    I agree with Levi and Colm that running continually in the same direction will cause a muscle imbalance. I can see, however, that it would cause a problem on a crowded track. If, however, there are very few people “on board,” and I stick to an outer lane, I don’t see this causing any real issues.

    You shared a couple of facts I wasn’t aware of. Thanks again for the graphic and the info. Hopefully this will keep those backward-running rugby ladies in lane one under control. 😉

    • Thanks Calvin! And you’re right – running in one direction can cause imbalances, which is why you should only use the track for workouts rather than just distance runs. But if there’s nobody there, there’s nobody to yell at you for running clockwise 🙂


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