Track sprints for conditioning
Sprinting: The act of running over a short distance at maximal (or near) speed.
Sprinting’s definition for you and I: An efficient, schedule friendly, insanely powerful and much superior method to lower intensity cardio options – AND, a valuable tool to compliment ANY fitness goal.
Growing up I loved sprinting. Obviously I was oblivious to how beneficial my favourite activity was. Besides, I think that’s part of the ‘freedom’ of youth; the innocent unawareness that it entails. Playing tag at school day in and day out, life was great. We’d sprint here there and everywhere. Sadly there comes a time in life where all that youthful activity naturally tends to taper off, and we have to ‘grow up’ – playing ‘tag’ isn’t socially acceptable anymore.
Getting back into it –
The fitness world is a world of many concepts and ideas, many of which come and go. There are a few however, that stand the test of time. Sprinting is yet another primal movement pattern. Long time readers of this blog may have seen my overlooked movement series (if you haven’t check them out HERE) – the premise behind those posts was to re-emphasise the value of so many movements that have unfortunately got lost amongst today’s fads and funky ‘concepts’.
Slowly though, the secrets of sprinting are beginning to be unlocked. We’re beginning to finally see past the whole “steady state aerobic cardio burns more fat DURING the workout!” dogma.
Instead, the commonly overlooked fact that is: Higher intensity, short bursts (intervals) sky-rocket your post exercise oxygen consumption for upto 48 hours! Is being absorbed and exploited.
Without getting too scientific, the image above shows that for some considerable portion of time after increasing your oxygen consumption via high intensity anaerobic training (work duration of less than 90 seconds) you spend a significant period ‘making up’ the oxygen deficit you created during your session.
Or simply…………your metabolism is revved up long beyond your workout.
Not to mention, when sprinting is done with enough volume to produce lactic acid (NOT for beginners), the lactic acid plays precursor to human growth hormone. Growth hormone is also a precursor to testosterone and a huge influence on the mobilisation of body fat. Sprints are very similar to barbell complexes in this regard.
If that hasn’t sold it to you, the time efficiency will!
A good quality sprint session shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes – and that’s for more advanced and experienced sprinters. That’s where most go wrong, starting too heavy in terms of volume and intensity. Realise that when done correctly, one short session is plenty for someone just starting out!
I’m forever promoting the need for starting with a minimal dose of necessity: Do the minimum that’s required FIRST to stimulate adaptation and results.
How to start –
Ideally you would want a proper 400 metre circular athletics track. Obviously for some, that won’t be feasible. If that’s the case, there’s numerous options. You could run on the street, maybe use lamppost to lamppost as a distance reference, or head to your local park or field. If you have a local football field near you, that would be great too! Use half the length of the pitch to start.
-Do some light jogging to elevate your temperature and get blood flowing……
-Do some dynamic mobility themed movements that are specific to sprinting………
-Start with a simple protocol such as 6 x 50 metre (or yard) repeats with 2 minutes rest………
-On your very first session AVOID maximal exertion. Use this session as a technique familiariser.
If you try to go all out, you will pull or strain something! When I first began using this simple protocol myself, I went a little too high on the intensity and pulled my right hip flexor. It’s only now – after several repeated sessions, that my hip flexor is being kind enough to let me push harder each time.
Be sure to observe how YOUR body responds in terms of muscle stiffness and sensitivity. And please don’t fall victim to the temptation of doing more repeats and greater distances. If you do, you’ll find that the effectiveness of the sprinting session will evaporate. You just won’t be able to sustain near-maximal exertion for much more than 75-100 metres – especially injury and strain free!
And it’s sustaining the intensity that makes the magic happen. NOT duration.
Be patient and allow your body and nervous system to adapt to one session weekly of 5-6 50 metre or so repeats and scale up from there, if need be. Just like weight training, more volume ISN’T always better.
A long term progression could look like:
- Weeks 1-4 – 6 x 50 metres, 2 mins rest
- Weeks 5-8 – 6 x 75 metres, 2 mins rest
- Weeks 9-12 – 8 x 50 metres, 2 mins rest
- Weeks 13-16 – 6 x 100 metres, 2 mins rest
And so on. You could then reduce the amount of repeats to 4 and start doing 150 metres, then 200 and eventually, one day far in the future, 400 metre repeats! And if you were able to sprint multiple 400 metre repeats, then focused on improving your time over a period of weeks and months, you will have the physique of a god! Improving performance is always the best way to get results.
Note: You would only scale up the distance once you can sustain near maximal speed for the desired range. And obviously the rest periods would need to increase, otherwise the intensity and exertion will fall.
I myself have just begun incorporating sprints into my own workout schedule – to compliment weight training and to enjoy the numerous hormonal benefits. This blog is based around much theory and much more practicality.
Have you ever done sprinting? Enjoy it? Want to get back into it, or start?
Or do you have other preferred methods of cardio – particularly anaerobic or H.I.I.T. cardio?
JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All
The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.
I love sprints!! I just recently started incorporating them into my workouts, and they’ve made a HUGE difference in my level of fitness and my body fat. Good stuff!
Awesome aren’t they? I haven’t done them in a while actually 🙁 but I do intervals with battle ropes which are kinda similar. How often do you do them?
About twice a week. Sometimes it just depends on how sore I am from lifting. Battle ropes are amazing too! High intensity exercises are my favorite. You get so much work done in a short amount of time 💪
110%! I can’t be done with marathons and 7 hour gym sessions. Get in. Hit it hard. Get out and get prepping for round 2!