District Track Club runners
District Track Club runners Credit: Darrow Montgomery/File

Home Gym is a series by City Paper writers looking at the different ways D.C. is working out during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly two months ago, I reached out to Tom Brumlik, the head coach of the D.C.-based District Track Club, and asked if he could send me a workout. I wanted to see how his athletes were staying fit during the pandemic and try one of the sessions for myself. Within days, he emailed me a detailed track workout, along with recommended warmup drills.

“If you want the full DTC experience you are probably in for a long day,” Brumlik wrote in the email dated May 20. “Virus aside, a typical ‘hard’ morning of training lasts about 3 hours from warm up drills to the weight room.”

I was intrigued and excited for the challenge, but as the weeks went by, I found myself coming up with an excuse every time: It’s too hot. I haven’t done sprints on the track since the winter. I’ll just do a slow, easy run today. Did I mention it’s too hot? 

This past Sunday, I finally decided to give it a try. It’s not getting cooler anytime soon, and I had skipped my Saturday long run. Professional runners in the District Track Club aren’t waiting around for the perfection conditions. No more excuses.

By now, outdoor tracks in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia are open to the public. But it’s crucial to note as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spike across the country, social distancing guidelines must be adhered at all times, even while exercising. As City Paper reported, infectious disease experts do not believe that runners need to wear a face mask, unless they are in an area where they cannot maintain at least 6 feet of distance from another person.

District Track Club runner Maddie Kopp says that the team has staggered their workouts so not all 15 members of the team are on the track at once.

As I discovered when I did the Washington Spirit’s workout in April, professionally athletes take their warmups very seriously. Kopp says a typical warmup routine, which includes drills, an easy warmup run, and strides, lasts about an hour. (Details of the warmup are listed below.)

I do the warmup drills at home, partly to stay out of the sun, but mostly so I can look up the unfamiliar drills online. 

“The goal of the pre-run drills are to increase blood flow, activate nervous system, increase mobility, and decrease likelihood of beginning the run with poor mechanics,” Brumlik says.

Once I finish them, in a little over 10 minutes, I drive to a local track to do my warmup run, which Kopp says is run at a “super easy pace.” Runners on the team go anywhere between 1.5 and 3 miles, usually in the neighborhood around the track. 

“Everyone on our team has a different amount of running based on various factors: event type, running age, body type, training history,” Brumlik says. “All of the athletes should do ‘ins and outs’ for the last half mile of their run. ‘Ins and outs’ are jogging the curves and picking up … the straightaways … The goal is to warm up for the challenging session ahead.”

I’m pleasantly surprised that no one is on the track on this Sunday afternoon, but halfway through my warmup run, the skies open up and it begins to storm. I power through the run—the rain feels kind of nice—and do the stretching drills before the I decide to wait out the rain in the car. I don’t end up doing the jump rope drills (I don’t own a jump rope) or the strides (I forgot). Sorry, coach.

I take a 15 minute break before heading back.

The workout Brumlik prescribes me involves 200-meter sprints that get progressively faster each set. 

First set: 4 x 200 meters at mile pace (take your mile pace in seconds and divide by 8) with a 60-second jog or walk recovery

Two minute jog or walk recovery

Second set: 3 x 200 meters at 800-meter pace (take your mile pace in seconds, divide by 8, multiply by .9) with a 90-second jog or walk recovery

Two minute jog or walk recovery

Third set: 2 x 200 at faster than 800-meter pace (take your mile pace in seconds, divide by 8, multiply by .8) with a two minute walk

“I usually try to have a first workout at this type of speed in a cutdown fashion to help the athletes warm up,” he says. “We always like to finish fast because that is what a race is going to feel like.”

Feeling ambitious, I calculate my 200-meter splits based off a 6-minute mile pace, meaning that I should be running the first set in 45 seconds, followed by 40 seconds, and 36 seconds.

The first rep doesn’t feel too hard, and I finish in exactly 45 seconds. But before I feel recovered, it’s time to go again—and again, and again, and again. The next three reps are slower than I want: 47, 48, and 46.

I grab a quick drink of water before the two minutes are up, and head into a faster sprint than the first set, and my next three reps are 41, 43, and 43—all slower than what I’m supposed to run.

It’s clear my speed isn’t where it needs to be, and I’m not sure how much faster I can run. I try my best in the last set to sprint through the finish line. I get close, running 37 seconds on the second to last rep. I have one last chance to hit my mark. 

As I reach the straightaway, I try to speed up, but I’m unable to shift into another gear. I cross the line in 38 seconds. After a slow walk to start, I get some water before my cool down. Brumlik wants “some structured movement” post workout and says he avoids setting a specific distance for his runners for the cool down. I decide to jog a mile on the track before heading back home.

But for District Track Club members, their day has just begun. Runners typically have circuit training, plus weight lifting and then some rope stretching before they get a break.

Brumlik was right. That really is a long day.

Warmup Drills:

Foot Drills (8-10 reps):
-Ankle inversion and eversion
-Toe yoga
-Outside foot walk
-Inside foot walk
-Toes in walk
-Toes out walk
-Toe walk
-Heel walk

On the Ground Drills: 
-Scorpion 2 (on back and stomach)
-Cat Stretch
-Bird Dog
-Worlds Greatest

Movement Drills: 
-Cook squat
-Runner touch
-Side spring
-Forward spring

Warmup Running:

1.5-3 miles 


Stretching Drills:
-Hamstring walk
-Quad pull
-Toes in/Toes out
-Glute/Piriformis stretch (Alternate: Knee to chest/Shin to chest)

Hurdle/Jump Rope (Barefoot):
-Hurdle walk-overs (twice through)
-Jump rope No. 1 (16-24 each leg)
-Side Skips (twice through)
-Jump Rope No. 2 (16-24 each leg)
-Over unders (twice though)

Line Drills:
-Straight leg spring
-A spring

Strides: Start a little slower than “mile effort” and finish a little faster than mile effort. Usually 3-4 x 75-150 meters picking it up every third of the stride. E.g. 3×150 (accelerating each 50 meters) walk jog rest in between