Note to Readers: Sorry about the time gap, but hey, no excuses right?
Usain Bolt will be setting out to break a world record soon in this year’s Olympic Games, and personally, we are hoping to see him do it, just to prove how amazing humans are. For those who don’t know, Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world, and he has the current world records in the 100, 150, and 200m dashes, among many other notable accomplishments; he is also one of my favorite athletes.
So why are we discussing Usain Bolt? The reason I mentioned Usain Bolt is because there is one thing he for sure has right—speed. Humans are designed to run, and speed is one of our qualities; however, do not overestimate us because humans still lack the agility and speed of most animals. Usain Bolt reaches arguably 30 miles per hour and a cheetah can reach 75, which is a big difference in the wild.
So what does speed have to do with you? Actually, speed has a lot to do with us. Speed development is an important motor skill that aids our running at all speeds, helps to correct and strengthen form, and burns fat and gets us back into shape. Because of this, we refer to sprinting as the ultimate workout: no weight room, only two legs, two arms, and an open area. There are three easy types of sprinting that I will discuss and the benefits of each.
1. Short and Power Sprints. The NFL Combine would refer to this as a 40 yard dash perhaps but short sprints need a seperate category. Most true distance athletes will debate adding true short sprints into their workouts because they see no need, which is understandable, especially for ultra-runners. However, all three categories of sprints that I discuss are essential at one point or another. Since, even for ultra-runners, all three types of muscle fibers aren’t all constantly firing at once. For instance, if we jog slow for hours, we will still incorporate more than slow twitch muscles. Because of this fact, it is essential to be able to recruit any of the three fibers at a given moment.
- To do short hill sprints, begin slowly with baby steps. If your fitness level is not capable of even running a couple miles yet, then short sprints may still be out of the picture and you will have to work your fitness up to that level. By taking baby steps, you will probably do no more than 2-4 repetitions the first time.
- Incorporate them once a week or twice a week at first. Do this until you incorporate other methods of sprints, too.
- Begin with a flat surface, possibly a track, although grass works just as well, too.
- Start with a medium distance depending on your fitness level. This could probably be anywhere from 30-80 meters. Eventually you will probably move these up to 100-150s on flat ground
- Begin sprinting. Push hard through the sprint.
- WALK back to the start. This is an important rule in sprinting, which is to make sure you have adequate recovery between repetitions. You can take more than a walk back rest but never less.
2. Long sprints. The term long sprints may be a bit vague, but I will clear it up. When I began running track, a long sprint was a 200. By the time my high school career was over, it was a 400. Now, near the halfway point of my college career, it is the 800. Because of this, different distances can be used, and all require different purposes that eventually help us out. The most important part of the long sprints section is that it usually deals with some form of lactic acid training and a lot of race pace training to get the feel for things. Even without races, long sprints are, without a doubt, extremely important.
- Once more, begin slow. Add them once or twice a week, not on the same days as other sprints because they work a different muscle type.
- Use a flat surface, such as a track.
- Begin with low reps, which are in the 2-4 range.
- Begin with a smaller distance. Most beginners will not be able to do Yasso 800’s in their first workout, unfortunately. Start with a 200-300 distance and run it at a moderate speed. Gradually pick up a half a second to a second over the next few weeks. Add no more than 10-15% to the distance each week, also.
- Make sure to remember that, although these are sprints, they will be much slower than a short sprint, especially if your lactic acid system has not fully developed.
- Walk back recovery will be at least half the distance. In most cases, some experienced runners may not have to walk the entire distance back on these, especially if it is over a 400 and less than an 800, but keep to a general rule that at least walking back half the distance is good in the beginning. Later on, one can begin to mix and match these and run workouts, such as “dirty thirties” and many more that will involve this same distance but less rest, but more on that later. . .
3. Hill sprints, the ultimate beast. By far, hill sprints are my favorite type of workout. By adding variation, you can work your anaerobic, aerobic, and even glycotic systems with them.
- Approach hill sprints with extreme caution, and be sure that you are capable of a high fitness level with other types of sprints already, especially if you are sprinting steep hills.
- Begin gradually. You may only do one or two reps of these, especially if on a steep hill, if you are just starting out.
- Learn to lift your legs higher and use only a slight forward lean. This helps correct our running form and gives us power in all of our other runs. It also is kind of like a “weight lifting session in disguise” as I have heard it named.
- Do these once or twice a week at most. Alternate the days with the other types of sprints.
- Mix up the distance and incline. Unless you live in the heart of a flatland, chances are there are hills near where you live, and they probably are all different distances and elevations. If this is the case, utilize them all. Some days you may do 20 reps of a 20 meter hills, while other days you may do 2 reps of a 400 meter hill. It is important to work all the systems when sprinting hills. Besides, that’s how it would have been in the wild anyway!
I hope you find sprinting as enjoyable and healthy of a workout as us. Sprinting, if added properly, can enhance your running and your life, among other things. Utilize this training method and a few others that we will post soon to help you develop a better way to move physically.