Day: December 15, 2010

Benefits of Sprinting

Unfortunately there are some common misnomers about sprinting.

  • Bad for the joints and muscles
  • Doesn’t help with weight loss
  • Doesn’t train the cardiovascualar sytem
  • Only young people and athletes should do them

In reality sprinting drills are one of the most effective methods of increasing your fitness level and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Whether you are biking, rowing or running doing repeated bouts of short distances at high speed can do wonders for your heart, lungs, muscle tone, joint health and waist line.

Contrary to popular belief the cardio vascular systems isn’t inactive at short distances. With continuous, fast and flowing motions your heart and lungs have to work overtime to circulate blood to your working muscles. The cardiovascular system wasn’t designed to work in isolation. With sprinting there is a constant eb and flow between your anaerobic and aerobic systems. The muscles and connective tissue create, absorb and redistribute power while the aerobic system fuels the body with oxygen and blood. When challenged with short distances and high speeds the cardiovascular system is forced to pick up its game to fuel these intense bouts of exercise. Your energy systems respond very well to intensity not just volume.

Have you ever peered down at the calorie counter on the treadmill and have your heart sink? All that work and you haven’t burned close to the amount of calories you wanted to. With sprinting the calorie burning doesn’t stop when you stop. With the increased demand of high intensity training your metabolism is working even when the workout is over. If you don’t believe me run a quarter mile as fast as you can then rest. If you can run with any inkling of speed I guarantee you will be huffing and puffing even after your stop running. The more intense your sprinting workouts are the longer your metabolic rate stays elevated afterwards.

The connective tissue (tendons and ligaments) gain strength when exposed to rapid and flowing ranges of motion. The fluid and buoyant movement of a competent sprinter gets the nervous system fired up which sends a signal to your connective tissue to expand and contract quickly. This creates power and momentum that travels through the muscles propelling you through space. These elastic movements strengthen the ligaments and tendons which enables them to fire faster and more efficiently. Slow and plodding movements can actually wear away and damage them over time. If you want to keep those joints healthy pick up the pace.

Often sprinting is looked at as a young persons activity. This is hardly the case. In my mind the older you are the more you should be working on your sprinting. Some of the many attributes that decline with age are flexibility, strength and power. With decent sprinting technique you can develop and improve on all those attributes. Plodding your way through a slow, moderately paced workout for an hour will not slow down this process. If you train slow you will move slow outside of the gym as well. Training with fast and flowing motions will combat the aging process by training your body to move with long and fluid movements.

Sprinting workouts can involve many different modes of exercise. Running, rowing, biking and swimming can be great activities to use in a bout of sprints. Make sure to pick an activity that you are already competent in. If you are a horrible swimmer now is not the time to start torpedoing across the pool. Find a cardio machine or mode of exercise that you can move with at least some fluidity. The goal isn’t muscle fatigue. The goal to finish your allotted distance with speed and grace.

When picking a distance and amount of sprints to do be smart. Pick a distance and set number you can finish with fluidity and speed and competent form. If you start thrashing in the pool or you sounds like a 3 legged elephant on the treadmill you probably have gone too far or have done too many rounds. You can start with as little as 100m run or 1 lap in the pool. The distance doesn’t matter. Your quality of motion and the speed in which you perform trumps volume and mileage any day. A good rule of thumb is “When the power and speed decline it is time to stop”.

Allow yourself up to 3 minutes in between rounds. If you are moving with any kind of speed you will need and appreciate the time off. You want to be as fresh as possible when you sprint. Focus on how fast you finish not whether you keep going. If you feel like you do not need the rest your speed , strength and technique need some improvement. Keep in mind these are not intervals. Finish your distance as fast and as fluid as possible, rest, then do it again.

Here are a few simple sprinting workouts I take most of my clients through while at the Club:
4 rounds/ 200m row / 2 minute break in between rounds
6 rounds / sprint up LENORA (hill outside) / 2-3 minute break between rounds
4 rounds / Box Push (to COKE machine and back) / 2-3 minute break between rounds