Personal Trainer sprinting with daughter in grass.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE SPRINTING FOR BETTER HEALTH

Sprinting is a fundamental component of being human, a locomotive movement. It’s a natural movement that we all do, especially as kids. As adults, sprinting is not as standard unless you are in sports this should not be the case sprinting is a natural movement you learn as a kid. At first, it was awkward, but the more you ran, the better it felt. 

Movement is a skill. 

Sprinting is a skill. 

When you don’t use a skill for a long time, you lose the ability to perform that skill. 

I am sure you heard the phrase, use it or lose it and sprinting is a great example. Go ahead and think about when was the last time you ran. Most likely, you were younger, playing tag, recess, and sports sprinting was required. As an adult, it’s not common for you to sprint, unless you participate in recreational sports. 

As a parent, I can think of many situations that require me to sprint. Kids will make you have to sprint for playtime, or they are in a dangerous situation, and you need to sprint to them. 

I do a lot of sprinting during playtime with my kids. Luckily I have not been put into a situation that requires me to sprint because my kids are in danger. I never want to be put in that situation, but I want to prepare my body to perform. 

I want to have confidence in my ability to sprint without injury. Playing with my kids requires running and a quick change of direction. During this playtime, an injury should not be a worry of mine. 

I do not want you to worry either. I want to help by giving you a guide on how you can start. You can also reap the benefits of sprints. 

BENEFITS OF SPRINTING 

Regularly sprinting in your routine has many benefits for your body that are hard to get from other modes of physical activity. 

Here is a quick list of benefits, and then I will explain why for each. 

  • Builds muscle
  • Builds power
  • Recruits and challenges the entire core
  • Joint health
  • Mental health 
  • Hormonal health
  • Active aging benefits
  • Cardiovascular health 
  • Better at everything 

BUILDS MUSCLE, STRENGTH, AND POWER

Your muscles are composed of two muscle fiber types: type I and type II. Type II muscle fibers are fast twitch fibers. These fast twitch fibers get recruited during heavy loaded and quick movements, hence the name. 

Type I muscle fibers are slow twitch fibers. These muscle fibers get recruited during long endurance activities and when stability is needed. 

When you age, type II muscle fibers can weaken and waste away. While sprinting, you recruit these muscle fibers that will help maintain and build throughout the aging process. 

With age, your flexibility, strength, and power will decline, more reason to sprint. You can develop, improve, and maintain these physical attributes at any age. Developing the skill to sprint is more challenging than retaining, and the difficulty increases as you age. 

 Strength training will do more in terms of building muscle and strength. You can use strength training to build power but will not come close to what you can accomplish with sprint training. 

SPRINTING CHALLENGES THE ENTIRE CORE

I have talked about the core, and you can go back and read those blog posts. Here is part 1 of 4 for working your core smarter. 

Your core has two primary jobs, prevent unwanted movement and link your upper and lower body. 

Let’s talk about the unwanted movement first. I go into detail with previous posts, and in case you haven’t read those posts, I will briefly explain anti-movement. 

Your core works to prevent movement in the lumbar spine (low back). Extension, rotation, flexion, and lateral flexion are the anti-movements you are working on. 

During an all-effort sprint, your core works hard to prevent these actions on the low back. Anti-movement in all three planes of motion is being taken place at once. 

Full body control and coordination are tested during a sprint, and the core is directly in the middle. Your core connects the lower and upper body to maximize power output. 

When the core is not working adequately, your sprint performance will decline, lacking proper power output. 

Work on better core stability with anti-movements if you want to sprint better. Better core stability and control will assist you in exerting max force. 

ACTIVE AGING BENEFITS

I mentioned earlier that sprinting is a way to express power, and power is one of the first physical characteristics to decline. 

Training to express power and strength training can help you with this decline. 

 You can increase your overall fitness level by sprinting into your old age. 

Sprinting requires proper mobility, strength, and power. If you practice and maintain the skill of sprinting into your old age, you are better off than your peers. 

Your joint health will also be better when you consistently have sprints in your routine. Sprinting exposes your joints to rapid changes in the range of motion, and you will improve your strength. 

The connective tissues expand and contract quickly from signals from the CNS. The quicker the contraction to expansion will increase power and momentum. Sprinting will make your joints stronger and healthier. 

Hormones can improve with consistent sprinting in your routine. 

Aging will naturally lower your hormone levels, but you can reduce how much it lowers. Sprinting boosts testosterone and spiking human growth hormones, and increases insulin sensitivity. 

Glucose control is vital as you age, lowering your risks of type II diabetes and overall better health. 

GETTING STARTED WITH SPRINTS

Before you just go and sprint, you need to have a proper warm-up and a plan. A strategy on how to start and progress without injury. You can get injured from doing more than what the body is capable of doing. I want to provide you with a quick way to warm up and some strategies for starting.

Before any workout, you should have a warm-up to help you move and feel better, especially with high-intensity movements such as sprinting. Pulling a hamstring or snapping your achilles is the last thing you want to happen. A proper warm-up with intelligent programming can help you reduce this risk. 

I will write on this in more detail in a future article, but I will give you a quick list to focus on. 

  • Foam Roll (any muscle that feels tight, 30 seconds each)
  • Mobility around ankles, hips, thoracic spine, and shoulder joints
  • Activation ( get the body moving quickly)
  • Whole body movement (practice and warm up the movement pattern you will be focusing on that day)

This list is a rough breakdown for a warm-up and should only take about 10-15 minutes. A small amount of time to get the body less tight and moving well so you can perform your best. 

For sprints, let’s dive into each one for you to do. 

  1. Foam roll the bottom of the feet, calves, hamstrings, and quads. Spend about 30 seconds on each area. 
  2. Mobilize the ankle, hips, upper back, and shoulders. Be intentional and think about getting at your end range of motion, then tense the muscles. Do not hold your breath. Check out these videos for each one and perform one set of 5-10 reps each.
  3. Get your nervous system excited and ready for activity. This activation drill will help with the CNS, stability, and core, snap downs to a single leg landing. Perform one set of 4 reps on each leg. 
  1. Lastly, you want to incorporate a whole body movement that will mimic the main exercise for that day. For this instance, it is sprints, and I like to work on A-skips. Mark out 20 yds and go forward than backward. The A-skip will work on coordination, rhythm, and single-leg power, preparing you for sprints. 

Now that you got the warm-up done, you need to mark the area you will be sprinting. You want to have a starting position and a clear finish line. 

I do most of my sprints at my house, so I will grab two kettlebells and put them in the grass at the distance I want. Regardless of how you want to mark your distances, just make it easy for you to see. 

Finding your distance, you will take bigger than your normal steps and count till you reach the distance you want. For example, if you want 10 yds, that will be 10 big steps from your starting position. 

Avoiding injury will be a big priority, so it will be better to start with slow progressions. 

First, I want to explain the rate of perceived exertion, also known as RPE. The RPE is ranked from 1-10, 1 being super easy and 10 being extremely difficult. 

SPRINT WORKOUT

Keeping this simple, here is how 12 weeks would look like sprinting one day a week. 

Weeks 1-4

  • Measure 10yds
  • Set 1 at an RPE of 5
  • Set 2 at an RPE of 7 
  • Set 3 at an RPE of 9 
  • Set 4 at an RPE of 9 

Between sets, you will rest between 2-3 minutes. You want full recovery between each sprint. 

Weeks 5-8

  • Measure 15yds
  • Set 1 at an RPE of 5
  • Set 2 at an RPE of 7 
  • Set 3 at an RPE of 9 
  • Set 4 at an RPE of 9 

Between sets, you will rest between 2-3 minutes. You want full recovery between each sprint. 

Weeks 9-12

  • Measure 20yds
  • Set 1 at an RPE of 5
  • Set 2 at an RPE of 7 
  • Set 3 at an RPE of 9 
  • Set 4 at an RPE of 9 

Between sets, you will rest between 2-3 minutes. You want full recovery between each sprint. 

After 12 weeks you can progress to sprinting longer distances and more sets with slow progressions.  

I just provided a good way for you to get started. For the first couple of weeks, expect to feel sore, simply work on your recovery. Stay consistent and watch how you progress with your health and performance. 

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out at cory@caruthersfitness.com

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