20 Aug Five Reasons Why You Should Sprint Train
As we slowly see the Summer Olympic Games come to an end and the Paralympic Games fast approach, many of us tend to forget how much we love watching the sports that often don’t get much attention in the Games off-years.
Every four years brings back reflection and stories from our past-time. We all have friends that rated themselves back in high school on the track or in the pool – and want you to know about it.
That’s why it’s no surprise the level of excuses that blame politics or injuries as the reasons why half of the country aren’t competing in Tokyo this year has increased in the last fortnight.
While reminiscing on old blue ribbons that have made a comeback this month, a lot of us are reminded of the physical activity we have abandoned but once enjoyed.
THE 100M SPRINT
This is probably the most famous event at the Olympics. Why? We all have done it, we all can do it (maybe not at Olympic speeds though), and many of us love it.
What most of us don’t know is how beneficial and important sprint training can be not only for your strength and power, but for your health.
Nowadays, people believe the further they can run, the fitter they are.
Sure, running further is a flex, but did you know running at maximal pace (sprinting) hosts a variety of physiological and health related benefits that long distance doesn’t?
While many Australians spend endless hours a week plodding along on treadmills and bikes, or running at a slow to moderate pace outside, sprinting can offer bigger benefits in a fraction of the time.
It’s time to wind the clock back, dust off those long-forgotten running shoes, and reintroduce yourself how to sprint.
FIVE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD SPRINT TRAIN:
1. Improves athletic performance
Improving your top speed, improves your acceleration. To be fast, you need to run fast.
Although some athletes may never need to accelerate or sprint 100% in their event or sport, in many cases they are required to run fast.
This could be either an explosive first step to position yourself in volleyball, a high jump approach, hitting a ruck, or even increase your time in an 800m race.
Whatever sport you play, you will benefit from incorporating speed work.
2. Sprinting burns more fat during and after your workout
Sprinting is by far one of the best exercises to do to help with weight loss and lower body muscle growth.
Speed training creates a big metabolic disturbance and is one of the best methods for burning fat. The reasons are because of the effect (and after-effect) sprinting has.
Activities such as sprinting or HIIT training are more intense and rapid than an activity like jogging. Not only will you burn calories during your session, but you continue to burn calories long after your workout has finished – this process is called post-oxygen consumption (EPOC).
Sprinting will significantly increase EPOC, which will burn calories for hours after high-intensity training.
During very intense exercises, your body will use more oxygen than it can take in. Once your workout finishes, your body has to re-oxygenate and recover from that amount of stress.
You will burn fat, more rapid and longer.
Read why you should incorporate HIIT training here.
3. Increases muscle growth
Sprinting’s impact on muscle growth is the strength and conditioning world’s best kept secret.
It is arguably the best exercise for building your hamstrings, glutes, calves, and quads.
Yes, it’s not in the same category as a squat or deadlift, but there’re two unique mechanisms through which sprinting builds muscle directly and indirectly.
Sprinting increases the amount of fast-twitch fibers (type 2) in the legs. This has a direct correlation with increased muscle mass and strength.
Have you ever wondered why marathon runners look completely different to sprinters?
Slow-twitch muscle fibers do not get any bigger the more you exercise them. Fast-twitch muscle fibers do. If you want to get bigger and look defined, you must train fast-twitch fibers such as sprinting.
Sprinting has shown to have enormous hormonal benefits by increasing protein synthesis, boosting testosterone, and human growth hormone production.
It will facilitate positive hormonal adaptations that make it easier to grow and recover across your body. It will not only build up the muscles in your legs but stimulate growth throughout the rest of the body.
4. Active-ageing benefits
If muscle growth isn’t your thing, let’s consider the active-ageing benefits.
As we get older, our fast-twitch (type 2) muscle fibers can weaken and waste away. High-intensity training such as sprinting can help recruit these fibers and maintain muscle mass throughout the aging process.
The skeleton also gets stronger too. Sprinting is classified as a weight-bearing exercise, and thus the bones can get stronger from sprinting. Getting your sprints in can help ward off osteoporosis and protect your balance and coordination.
5. Improved VO2 max
Yet another benefit of sprinting that will come your way is the increased efficiency and health of your lungs.
Sprinting will definitely get your chest heaving, which is exactly what you need to make your lungs stronger, just like any other form of improvement.
Over time, your lungs will get more efficient from sprinting due to their increased ability to absorb and process oxygen. The more your sprint, the better your lungs will become at absorbing oxygen and sending it throughout your body.
Simply put, your muscles need oxygen to continue functioning, especially during exercise, or else you will start to feel that burn and fatigue real quick.
Things to know before you start:
1. Start slow
While sprinting may be a fast action, accelerating straight into a 100% sprint is not a good idea. This is an activity type that you need to ease into, increasing both your speed and your distance/time duration gradually.
When you start, you don’t max out your efforts, but you should focus on finishing a workout rather than going your hardest at it.
2. Warming up is crucial
Because sprinting uses so many muscles, and taxes them so thoroughly, it’s vital to be warmed-up before beginning.
A moderate walk and/or jog for at least 5–10 minutes is a good way to start, along with static stretches which should be held for only one or two seconds and dynamic stretches performed slowly.
Simple exercises to begin the warm-up phase such as standing sprint-arm action, or high-knee walking on the spot are useful.
3. Prepare to be sore
Prepared to feel your sprinting workout for a day or two afterward.
As with any new activity, this isn’t surprising, since bodies take time to build new muscles and adapt to new exercises.
It’s a great idea to stretch after sprinting and before starting, and to walk or jog a bit afterward to help your muscles cool down slowly, rather than working out in an abrupt start/stop manner. This will help mitigate soreness to a large extent, but you should still anticipate some soreness.
Basic sprint routine:
In this routine you will start with the longest distance and move down to shorter distances. As the distances decrease, your speed in the runs will increase.
Either a walk or light jog of the same distance for your recovery.
A1. 200 meters – 3 rounds @70-75% – walk what you ran for rest
B1. 100 meters – 6 rounds @80-85% – walk what you ran for rest
C1. 50 meters – 3 rounds @100% – walk what you ran for rest
Speak with a professional
Everyone has individual traits and abilities and if you’re new to exercise and sport it can be tough to know where to start safely.
Accredited exercise professionals are university-qualified who are equipped with the knowledge and skills to improve health, fitness, well-being, performance, and assist in the prevention of chronic conditions.
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Written by Exercise Right. We have partnered with Nike Australia Pty Ltd for this article series. The views expressed in this article, unless otherwise cited, are exclusively those of the author, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA). ESSA is a professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.
Nike had no role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or research or the writing of this article.