Just because sprinting and distance running are separate events in track and field doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate sprints into your half marathon or marathon training. In fact, sprinting is a valuable exercise for all runners. Not only does it improve running performance, but it can also have a positive effect on your daily fitness.

The runner’s world consulted experts and research to round up the benefits of sprinting. But before we get to the winnings, it’s important to differentiate the sprint from your other types of training runs.

What is sprinting?

Sprinting is the action of running at full speed for a short period of time. It requires powerful and explosive movements. Typically, when you go out for a run, you’re not focusing on an explosive or powerful stride, you’re trying to maintain a steady pace for a long period of time.

If you only run long distances, you’re only training your aerobic system – through which the body uses oxygen to produce energy – and slow-twitch muscle fibers, which run on oxygen to produce energy and are designed to retain fatigue for long periods of time. You need to train both your aerobic capacity and your slow-twitch fibers to improve distance, but sprinting can provide other benefits to your training.

Sprinting, for example, taps into your anaerobic system, which uses glucose instead of oxygen to produce energy. Due to the intensity, oxygen demand exceeds supply, so your body needs another fast-acting source. Sprinting also recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers, which generate more force and power than slow-twitch fibers, but tire more quickly.

When you’re nearing the end of a race and your natural instinct to finish as quickly as possible kicks in, you might find it hard to get going and rush to the finish if you’ve only trained your system. aerobic and your slow twitch fibers. By practicing sprinting, and therefore your anaerobic system and fast twitch fibers, you can hone a better finishing kick.

But, you might be wondering, “does sprinting really matter if I’m running long-distance races, which can take up to hours and hours to complete?” The short answer: yes.

A study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance in 2019 discovered significant correlations between 5K and 10K times and sprint speed. The researchers asked twelve elite runners to run both a 100-meter time trial and a 400-meter time trial. They found that the top sprinters in the group tended to have the fastest 5K and 10K season best times (except for one outlier).

The researchers concluded that sprint ability makes a difference in running performance, suggesting that “it would be more important for distance runners to improve their sprint ability than previously suggested.”

Even if you’re not an elite athlete, sprinting can provide real benefits to your training, whether you’re looking to go faster or longer. Let this list of benefits you’ll earn drive you to speed.

Sprinting increases your acceleration and top speed

It may seem obvious, but practice running faster Is make you faster. A review published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2016, which reviewed eight studies of sprint-specific training, observed improvements in subjects’ speed after at least six weeks.

Another study of 16 trained trail runners, published in 2017 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, found that four to seven 30-second sprints (performed at maximum effort), followed by four minutes of recovery, performed three times per week for two weeks, improved subjects’ 3,000-meter run time and time to to exhaustion. It also increased their maximum aerobic speed.

These speed boosts not only help you move faster on the court in a recreational sport like basketball or soccer, but even during your marathon. When the finish line is in sight, you can unleash a vicious kick to pass the competition, shave seconds off your time, and feel confident in your racing abilities.

Sprint improves your running mechanics

When you run, your brain sends a signal through the nervous system to your muscles. These nerves and muscles combined make up the neuromuscular system, which controls balance, posture, coordination and gait, all important aspects of good running form. Think of running a marathon: it takes a lot of composure (and straining your neurons and muscles) to maintain efficiency for hours on end.

But, “the gait you have for running is different from the gait you have for sprinting,” says Christian Robinson, a certified USATF Level 2 sprint, hurdles and relay coach and owner of Sprint Academy. Runner’s world. “When you sprint, you literally take advantage of every neuromuscular component you have to try to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible.”

For example, if your arms swing wildly, or your stride is too long, or your hamstrings don’t activate properly, you’re wasting energy. As a result, you won’t reach the line as quickly as if you had more efficient form. To sprint effectively, you naturally need to practice good mechanics. And by practicing good mechanics, you train your brain to teach your muscles to run efficiently.

“If you can run faster efficiently, then you can run slower efficiently,” says Robinson.

Sprinting improves your running economy

Running economy refers to “the energy demand of running at a constant submaximal speed,” reports a 2015 study in Sports medicine. In other words, it’s how efficiently you use energy when running at an aerobic pace.

In a systematic review and meta-analysis published in Sports medicine in 2016, researchers analyzed 16 studies and confirmed that explosive training methods improved running economy in endurance athletes. While many of these studies used plyometrics or strength training, the functional goals were the same as sprinting: to improve power and explosiveness.

In addition to its other findings, the 2019 study previously mentioned in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance also found a significant correlation between sprint speed and running economy. So don’t be surprised if you feel more efficient in steady-state runs after a few months of sprint training.

Sprinting builds muscle power

Sprinting is not only about mechanics and economy, it also requires strong and powerful legs. As mentioned earlier, sprinting trains fast twitch muscle fibers. These muscle fibers are larger, more powerful, and generate more force than slow-twitch muscle fibers used to run slower and longer, according to the book. Injury management in athletics. Therefore, you gain power in your legs with sprint training, and you can think of power as the marriage of strength and speed – a coveted combo to get you over a finish line with a new PR.

In addition: the same Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study published in 2017 and mentioned above, not only found improvements in speed after two weeks of a 30-second all-out sprint protocol, but also increases in average power and peak power.

So when you sprint, you gain stronger and more powerful muscles. The next time you squat in the gym or need to lift a heavy box, or even explode out of line in a race, you can thank sprinting for the extra muscle power.

Sold? Here’s how to start sprinting

If you want to add sprinting to your training routine, Robinson has some tips. He compares adding sprint work to your schedule to taking medication or seeing a physical therapist: “Most people try to self-diagnose and then try to self-medicate. ” He points out that 200-meter reps or 400-meter reps are not sprinting, even though it may seem like it to a distance runner. During sprint training, you are more likely to run less than 100 meters rather than more. So keep the distances short.

Also, sprinting puts a lot of stress on the body which needs to be properly implemented into your schedule or you could get injured. That’s why Robinson recommends getting an assessment from a trainer or professional to determine your specific physical abilities and skills, so they can develop an appropriate program for you. He likens it to jumping into freshman year of high school without the 14 years of education that preceded it:[If] you are never taught to read, write or do arithmetic and someone has thrown you into a course in arithmetic and advanced english literature where you will analyze shakespearean sonnets [it would be really tough to keep up]That’s what happens to people when they start trying to sprint.

After an assessment, set appropriate goals. Robinson makes sure to put together a reasonable schedule based on where the athletes are currently and where they want to go. “I don’t tell them what is possible. I tell them where they are and then the work needed to go in the direction they want. It then measures those goals based on gradual declines in short sprint times, like a 30-meter dash, and slow-motion form assessments on video.

Finally, when incorporating sprinting into your routine, be sure to emphasize rest and recovery. Robinson says it’s the most important factor that determines whether or not athletes get injured. “Work [sprinting] in a program would be at least one day a week consistently,” he says. “But then you’ll need rest before tapping into this system, between 48 and 72 hours depending on the person.” And make sure you do it on a track or on a soft, level surface like grass or turf – putting pressure on your body on uneven surfaces can lead to imbalance and injury.

If you think sprints suck at first, that’s okay, it’s part of the process (and also very common). “You stick with it, and after three or four weeks you realize, ‘I feel great,'” Robinson says. “That feeling of being consistent and seeing improvement definitely spreads to other parts of your life.”