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Jan 28, 2019 1:51 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Winter Track: Give Your Run Training A Boost

The Sunday morning track crew sets off on their speed workout. MIKE BOTTINI
Jan 28, 2019 4:55 PM

Running is one of the most basic exercises you can undertake. It doesn’t require any fancy equipment, and it doesn’t even require a gym membership. In fact, as well-known trainer Jimmy Minardi would attest to, it’s best done in the most beautiful “gym” in the world: the outdoors.Several storms this winter have rearranged the sand on the ocean beach, creating a very wide and flat profile that is perfect for running. There are claims that airborne ions created by breaking waves improve one’s sense of well being. I’m not sure how true that is but I find that there’s nothing more exhilarating as a run on the beach. My late afternoon beach run last week coincided with the sun beginning to dip into the water, and before it dropped out of sight it lit up the drab-colored, dormant beach grass into a brilliant gold that contrasted dramatically with the blue sky. This created a spectacular scene, one that could never be duplicated on a treadmill’s video screen.

Winter is also a good time to dress in layers and hit the trails. John Connor, a long-time contender in national and international age group meets, contends that trail running works myriad small and important muscles in the feet, ankles and legs that leads to both strength and stability.

Every serious runner knows that, in addition to putting in those weekly miles and incorporating some strength exercises, if one wants to get fast and fit, then some interval training is a must. Intervals, or speed workouts, can be done anywhere. But as with swim intervals, it’s most fun and rewarding to do with a group on a set course, and in the case of running, that would be a nice quarter-mile track.

I was first introduced to track workouts when I moved here in 1988, and met the local running crew at a 5K. Connor, Bill O’Donnell, Tom MacNiven, and Kevin Barry were among that crew, and we quickly bonded when we realized we shared a few things in common: a love of running, racing, and drinking good beer.

Track was Wednesday evening through late spring, summer and into the fall. Cliff Clark of Shelter Island was our coach and he encouraged us through some pretty formidable workouts. Our crew ran the gamut of abilities, with Olympic hopeful Kevin Corliss often the locomotive in the train of runners strung out behind one another in a tight line as we flew around the oval.

I was one of the “flatcars” just ahead of the caboose, and there was a sense of being pulled along by the energy and momentum of the faster runners just ahead. Those sessions taught me a lot about pacing and just how fast I could really run. And it was fun!

In those days, the track crew was largely a group of men, and when the days got shorter, the evening light faded, and the temperature dropped, track was over. Today, the track crew is mostly women. They seem a bit more “hard-core” than the all-male crew of the 90s. Unfazed by sub-freezing temperatures, 30-knot winds and serious wind chill conditions, it’s “game on” every Sunday morning at 9 at the East Hampton High School track.

Workouts are written up by Dr. Sinead Fitzgibbon, probably best known as the “fixer of broken down athletes” but also an accomplished competitor in a wide variety of athletic events. The routine includes a series of distances between 200 and 800 yards, with the very occasional mile time trial thrown in, for a total of two to three miles of speed work.

Last week’s set was a series of 8x200 yards, 4x400 yards and 1x800 yards, totaling 2.5 miles. In between each of those 13 intervals was a nice slow jog recovery. Times are recorded, as the goal is to run each interval at the same pace such that you can finish the workout. Some folks might have done a long run the day before, or are new to interval workouts, and they might modify the intervals, sitting a couple out or substituting a 200 for a 400.

Whatever your fitness level or experience, come on down and give it a try.

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