Sprinting has become a big deal in recent years as a tool to reduce body fat and for good reason. Sprint work interval training is probably the most intense and efficient workout you can get for your fat burning buck. Get and stay lean, develop strength, power and size, improve mobility, athleticism and coordination all from an invigorating workout that takes no more than 25 minutes. With results like these you can see why more and more people are hitting the track and why you should too.
But sprinting is incredibly hard on the body and jumping straight in without any preparation or build up may well leave you injured. With that in mind, below are some tips to allow you to unlock the benefits of sprinting while staying healthy.
1. Warm up properly
It’s obvious but that doesn’t mean it’s not the most important thing on this whole list. Start with a light five minute jog and then go through a range of dynamic stretches targeting the major muscles that will be working as you sprint. Pay special attention to the hamstrings (the most common muscle to be injured in those new to sprinting) and the hip flexors.
Follow this with 30 seconds each of skipping (not the rope kind), jogging with high knees and exaggerated arm movement, jogging while kicking your bum with your heel on each stride, and bounding (take long strides and fully extend your trailing leg with each step).
2. Don’t sprint at 100% intensity right away.
You don’t have to run as fast as you can every time you sprint to achieve the benefits and changes you are looking for. In fact almost all the benefits you will gain from sprinting (fat loss, muscle building) will be attained by running at 80-90% of your maximum speed and your risk of injury and the stress placed on your body will be much lower.
Even elite sprinters spend a great deal of their time running at sub-maximal intensities for this very reason.
3. Sprint uphill first
The main risk of injury from sprinting comes from overstriding (placing your front leg too far in front of you) and pulling a hamstring. Sprinting uphill makes it very unlikely you will overstride and so greatly helps to keep you safe from this kind of injury.
4. Start with a modest volume and increase things slowly
I know that you’re excited to get leaner and fitter and stronger and that now you’ve committed to making this happen you want to go in all guns blazing and make it happen. With this energy and excitement it’s easy to get a little carried away and do too much too soon.
While I want you to look great this summer I also want you to look great next summer, and the one after that, and that means looking after your body. Just like you’re not going to start out running at 100% intensity you also want to take time to build the volume of the sprint work you are doing.
Begin by having your sprinting interval sessions last no more than 10 minutes. This will still be a great workout and will still bring significant changes to your body. Every week add in an extra minute until you hit that 25 minute max which you won’t exceed. Your body will thank you for giving it time to adjust and you will have saved yourself the danger of taking on too much and burning out.
5. Don’t sprint on pavement
Pavement and concrete put a great deal of stress on your joints and this can build up to really serious injuries. Find some grass, sand, artificial turf or a track and do your running there. It makes a huge difference.
Follow these five tips and you should be sprinting happily for many months to come.
As ever if you have any questions on sprinting or any exercise and nutrition topics we are happy to answer. Contact us