There are many activities that the human body is built to do and almost all of them have to do with survival or reproduction (or both — because you can’t reproduce if you can’t survive). And doing these specific activities can be highly beneficial, because without them the body is not subjected to the routine it was built for.
Let’s use walking as an example. The body — especially the fat-adapted body — is built to be able to travel long distances on foot. Not by running, but walking. Modern society has made it so most people never have to walk the distances their body was designed to walk and they’re suffering from it. Walking is essential, but we’ll save that for another post.
Another essential activity is sprinting. The body is designed to sprint in order to evade predators and catch food. Of course, we rarely run into predators in the concrete jungle (hopefully) and I can’t think of the last time I had to sprint to chase down food.
The point here is that I’m not suggesting sprinting because it’s my favorite thing to do. I’ve never been a track athlete or coach. Sprinting is not in my background. I recommend sprinting because it’s an essential human activity. And I recommend sprinting because the science says it’s amazing for you.
Are you trying to lose weight? Sprinting increases the fat burning potential of muscles while improving endurance capacity.
Are you an athlete or do you just not want to get tired as fast? Sprinting increases muscle efficiency, helping you conserve more glycogen during exercise rather than burning it right away.
Best of all, sprinting takes less time than traditional endurance training yet yields almost all of the same benefits (maybe even more so when you factor in the reduced amount of oxidative stress).
How much sprinting do you need?
The good thing about sprinting is that unlike other cardio and endurance programs that ask you to collect hours and hours of time doing them, sprinting is quick and easy. A 10-25 minute sprint session once per week is all you need to reap the benefits I listed above.
How you sprint is important.
How you do everything in your daily life all the way down to how you stand is important, but we’ll get to that in due time. For now, let’s make sure we understand what we’re supposed to be doing within a healthy sprinting program.
For starters, I define sprinting as traveling at the highest speed that is safe for your individual body for a distance of 20 – 100 yards. Since everyone is different, you’re going to have to feel it out — you know your limits more than I do. If it feels sketchy, it probably is and you should pull back a little bit.
It’s very possible — especially if you’re older or recovering from injury — that you need to spend weeks building up to what amounts to something that actually looks like a sprint. That’s fine. You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great. If you pull a muscle or bust a joint, you’re doing it wrong. We’ve all seen the guy at the park going balls-to-the-wall in a body that is clearly struggling to handle it. Don’t be that guy.
Before you sprint, you should do a 5 to 10 minute dynamic warm up. Do some jumping jacks, leg raises, high knees, squats, burpees, and so on. Don’t go crazy as if this is the meat of your workout, it’s not. Just get the blood pumping and the muscles warmed up.
Start small. Don’t make your first sprint leg the 100 yard run. If you’re new to sprinting, you may even want to start with a 10 yard sprint. Make sure your body isn’t going to get squirrely on you when you put it under load. Use these small sprints to focus on your posture, keeping your body tight, keeping your feet straight, and driving your knees.
After each leg of sprinting, you should rest until you feel you’re close to 85-95% recovered. Our goal is to get the most production and energy out of each sprint leg, so if you’re too tired to take off again at maximum speed then you need to rest longer.
A simple starting program would be three short sprints, three medium sprints, and three long sprints. Focus on maximal exertion, not a length of time.
You don’t need to go find a track to do your sprinting workout. A field or open area will do. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend going on concrete. If you live near the beach or a lake where there’s sand that’s a great place. I sprint at the park right around the corner from my house on the grass. Sometimes I sprint up hill. On vacation? Sprint there too. There’s no limit to where or when you can do your sprinting, which is why it’s so easy to keep up with.
Just make sure you’re doing it. If you’er neglecting sprinting, don’t cry to me that your reboot isn’t coming along as planned.