Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Track v. Trail: The Pros and Cons

I arrived at the WL High School Track last night to see the gates shut and high school field hockey players warming up (sidenote: what is it about filed hockey players wearing skirts? What is it about any real athlete wearing a skirt? I just can’t get behind that). 

Anyway, my team was supposed to do 6x800m for our workout, but the track closure forced us to face an unexpected change of plans.

Instead of running 2-lappers around the football field (or field hockey field, as the case may be), we headed out to the W&CO bike path for our repeats. Our chosen "start” was two miles from the track – a good solid warm-up. And luckily there are posts marking every half-mile along the path, making our 800s relatively easy to figure out.

It was a nice change of scenery to run on a trail instead of a track. In college, we did all our cross county workouts on trails or around reservoirs or on our race course (I miss you Franklin Park and 30-B!)

There are pros and cons of working out on a trail versus a track

- (Pro-track) It’s easy to get attached to the exactness of a 400m loop – the track makes it easy to track your splits and measure your distances.

- (Pro-trail) When running on a trail, you are forced to run how you feel, because you don’t know exact distances.

- (Pro-track) The surface is softer and therefore easier on your joints than a cement bike path.

- (Pro-trail) Trails work different muscles because you have to go uphill and downhill. This can affect your times, but is good because most races are not completely flat. It’s good to practice running fast on varying gradients.

- (Pro-track) You have easy access to water/bathrooms after every repeat, and can keep an eye on your stuff.

- (Pro-trail) Trails provide a nice change of scenery – you’re not running in circles, you’re actually going somewhere. 

- (Pro-track) There are no bikers to yell at you. (On your left! Don't run 3 abreast!) Though I can sympathize with their rage.

I’m not saying that one workout locale is better than the other. I’ve had great workouts on a track, and also good ones on a trail. So if you always run on trails, try a track workout. And if you're usually on a track, test out a trail!

Last night’s 800s went well, mostly because I started SLOW and finished…slow. But that was my plan. After a workout-induced pain-storm last Tuesday (shins + hamstring + blisters = limping on both sides!), I took a week off running. Last night was my first day back in running shoes and my expectations were LOW. And I lived up to them. J