Sprinting has been used since the first humans lived on Earth, as they needed these skills to catch prey. However, it’s only in recent years that it has become both a fitness trend and a huge part of athletics competitions. The benefits of sprint work include enhancing athleticism, building muscle and burning calories. Recent studies have also shown short, rapid bursts of sprinting are more effective than long jogs or hours in the gym.
Sprint work needs significant strength to cope with reaction forces, which cannot be honed with regular gym work. Try doing some drills with a foam roller first, and then start running. It is recommended that beginners start by sprinting up steep hills around 40 yards long, as this prevents you from over-striding and injuring your hamstrings. You will need to consider the flow of any traffic, lighting if it’s dark, and your safety. You may also need to dress appropriately for both your activity and the weather, and decide on suitable footwear.
Try jogging lightly for at least two minutes on a flat area by the hill, or up and down the hill itself, before doing around ten minutes of stretching. When you’re ready, sprint up the hill five times with about 70% intensity and then rest between each run. If you are new to the sport or out of shape, wait until your third or fourth session before running at such intensity.
Look forward instead of at the ground but don’t lean forward. Instead, stay upright so your feet land under your chest. Then you will notice your strides are shorter when you run, as your feet just step up and don’t come down as hard. Your reaction forces start to decrease, proving running uphill to be the best way to start sprinting. You could even do this on a treadmill if weather conditions prevent you from running outside. Do a hill session twice a week.
A track is the most popular place for running training because the marks on it show you how far you have run. The surface is great for shock absorption too, so you can prevent injury to your joints. Jog once or twice around it to warm up before stretching. Choose how far and fast you want to run, and then do your first run at 70% intensity before walking for two minutes. If you can, do your next run at 80% intensity. Keep your first session short, to about four runs, so you don’t injure yourself doing too much too quickly. Jog around to cool down for five minutes afterwards.
Do a sprinting session twice a week, though leave at least 48 hours between sessions to give your body a chance to recover from this high-intensity workout. Soon you will discover improvements in your breathing, running times, and the tone and shape of your body.
If you don’t have a track near you, you could try running on grass, football fields or astroturf. You will need to jog around for at least two minutes to warm up on these.
Pavements are not the best surfaces to run on, as they feel hard underfoot and are the easy option for runners. However, flat car parks or a paved area measuring at least 40 metres might work well. People even run marathons on roads, so doing a few sprints instead could be beneficial.
Wherever you decide to start sprinting, you should test the water to find out which way suits your training program best.