Lately, some of my most exhausting (and most beneficial) workouts have involved sprinting. These types of workouts are often referred to as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and can leave you flat on your back, gasping for air. HIIT involves short duration high-intensity cardio with lower-intensity “recovery periods” and really isn’t for the faint of heart. However, if you can regularly push yourself to include exercises like these into your routine, you will experience greater gains in fitness than you previously thought possible.
Sprint workouts are great because:
-They require less time. If, like me, you come from the land of jogging, you may have slowly been improving your distance abilities. Perhaps you can go for miles and miles at a time. This is great. Personally, I still love long distance jogging. But if you need a killer workout in a minimal amount of time, sprint workouts are the way to go.
-They build muscle. Think about this. If you ever watch the Summer Olympics maybe you have noticed a slight difference between the appearance of the marathon runners and the sprinters. Both are insanely fit, but Usain Bolt looks like the Incredible Hulk next to the bulkiest marathoner. I have no doubt that they both spend their fair share of time in the gym, but the very nature of sprinting can build lower-body muscles, and fast!
-They improve speed. Running fast will naturally allow you to run faster. The more you work at it, the more results you will see. Track stars, marathoners, Ultimate players all crave increased speed. Who wouldn’t want to be faster?
-They improve endurance. This is a surprising benefit that I noticed after I began regularly sprinting. Last year, I spent hours upon hours training for a marathon. I did nothing but long, slow jogging. This past year, I moved jogging to the side and began working on speed. I have been playing Ultimate Frisbee several times a week and have even incorporated regular sprint workouts into the mix as well. As it so happens, I ran a half-marathon this past February and crushed my personal record.
There is actually a ton of science to back up these claims too. Statistically, it has been shown that bouts of high intensity exercise actually burn more calories and fat than traditional cardio does.
So, now that you’re sold on the benefits of sprint workouts, what should you do? The following routines are the ones that I have been doing with a small group of runners at a local track. The diversity that these routines offer really break up the monotony of running/walking/running and are actually fun.
Pyramid Runs: This exercise is strict jogging+sprinting in increasing distance intervals.
Of course, you can vary these distances as you see fit. The key is alternating jogging and sprinting with increasing and decreasing distance.
20-20-70: This is a workout designed to improve your performance in any sport setting. On a long straightaway mark off a 20 yard distance then mark of 50 yards more (for a total distance of 70 straight yards). Start by sprinting to the 20 yard marker. Turn around and sprint back to the start. Then turn around again and sprint all the way to the 70 yard marker. Finally, turn around and slow jog back to the start line. These are similar to old-school “suicides” with a much longer distance. Do 3 reps of these and see if you are still standing.
Stairs: These are my personal favorite. Find somewhere with a considerable amount of stairs (like the famous scene from Rocky). Begin by running up the stairs as fast as you can, making sure to touch every single step. Take it easy on the way back down. Repeat this 3 times. Next, run up the stairs as fast as you can touching every other step. Repeat 3 times. On completing the final rep, feel free to jump up and down with arms overhead. It makes you feel like a champ.
Each of these exercises are pretty intense (they are designed to be). Make sure you warm up first with at least 5 minutes of moderate jogging and stretching. Bring plenty of water with you and avoid going alone. Racing against a partner makes it much more fun and competitive.
(photo by tarunactivity)