Track and field is an all-season event. While many people are familiar with track events by watching the Summer Olympics, the races don’t end when the weather gets cold – they just go indoors. From December through March, track athletes such as sprinters perform at indoor meets before transitioning to the outdoor season from April through July or August. Sprint events such as the 200-meter dash are run in both indoor and outdoor seasons, but times are typically significantly faster outdoors.
Events and Time Comparisons
In both indoor and outdoor competitions, male and female sprinters both compete in the 200. In indoor events such as the NCAA Championships, sprinters run a 60-meter dash instead of the 100. Runners who specialize in the 200 typically have slower times indoors than outdoors. For example, Kimberlyn Duncan won NCAA titles in both indoor and outdoor 200 in 2012, but her best time in the outdoor meet of 22.19 was significantly faster than her best time of 22.74 at the indoor meet.
A typical indoor track is an oval with a length of 200 meters. This is half of the length of a standard outdoor track. This means that an athlete running in the 200-meter dash indoors is forced to negotiate corners more often and at tighter angles than on an outdoor track. Many indoor tracks also have banked corners that help runners on the inside lanes fight the centrifugal force caused by turning so that they're not pulled toward the outside of the track while running at full speed. A study published in “Biology Letters” in 2006 concluded that runners on the inside lanes during indoor meets have a bias against them because of the nature of running tight corners.
The indoor track season comes directly after sprinters have had an offseason layoff. Top sprinters engage in a periodization training cycle that breaks their workout routines into different cycles for individual parts of the year. During the indoor season, many sprinters are beginning to round into form after an offseason program designed to help them rest, recover from injuries and train. Many track athletes are in programs that don’t emphasize or have an indoor season. This means that the outdoor season is considered more important by many sprinters and is their target for peaking with the periodization training.
Sprinters at indoor meets run in more controlled environments than at outdoor meets. This includes a lack of wind, which can either help sprinters or hurt them depending on whether they are running into or against it. An indoor track has lanes that are 36 inches wide versus 42 inches for outdoor tracks. The narrower lanes can make it feel more cramped and uncomfortable for sprinters.
- Everything Track & Field: Pre-Season Track & Field Conditioning
- NCAA.com: NCAA Division 1 2012 Women’s Indoor Championship Results
- NCAA.com: NCAA Division 1 2012 Men’s Indoor Championship Results
- FloTrack.org: 2012 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships - Results
- MomsTeam.com: Indoor Track & Field – An Overview
- Track & Field News: Speed Training
- The Daily Princetonian: What's the Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Track?
- Biology Letters: Accounting for Elite Indoor 200 m Sprint Results
- DailyIllini.com: Indoor, Outdoor Tracks Provide Athletes with Different Experiences
Richard Manfredi has more than a decade of professional writing experience, both in the media and at a corporate level. Since 2003, he has worked in the public relations industry, creating and executing campaigns for technology and entertainment companies. Manfredi is also a journalist who has worked for the "Orange County Register," as well as several online publications.