“People who know I’m a sprinter will still say to me, “Hey, let’s go for a run.” I reply, “I don’t run. I sprint.””
-Steven Sashen, All-American masters sprinter
I started sprinting when I still weighed over 300 pounds. It was not a pretty sight, and it was definitely not fast. However, it helped me drop the weight much faster. Still to this day, no one is mistaking me for Usain Bolt, but sprinting has become an integral part of my personal strength and conditioning program, as well as the athletes I train.
There is one thing about sprinting though: it’s really hard. I used to think I was the only one that thought like this, but then I started to notice that the sprint day workouts were the easiest ones for everyone to talk themselves out of. And, once you miss a sprint workout, it becomes much easier to skip the next. Now, I have seen people talking themselves out of strength training as well, but there is just something different about sprints. I’m not sure I can even fully explain it.
And, there is something unique about sprinting. I have tried a number of interval training options (mostly to try and avoid the Oregon rain), sleds, Airdynes, and circuits, but none of them give me the same training effect I get from sprinting. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying sprints are the best conditioning workout, and everything else sucks. Far from it. I’m just saying there seems to be something hardwired in our genetics that is designed to run as fast as we can. And, before I get too far ahead of myself, it’s important to say that a conditioning program that only incorporates sprinting is missing key components for injury prevention. Sprinting is only acceleration. A good conditioning program should have the athlete, accelerate, decelerate, and change directions. But, that is for another post. For today, I want to break down some guidelines I use when training myself and athletes I work with.
For a sprint work out, there are 3 variables you can adjust: work time, rest time, and number of reps. A general guideline we use is to start with 6 sprints of 12 seconds each with a 1 minute rest period. I took this from Mark Sisson, and had success with it. As I started progressing and training other people, I started adding some of Mike Boyle’s stuff into our training as well. As a general rule, I don’t really get above 8 sprints of 14 seconds. When we can reach that comfortably (and that’s a relative term when we’re talking about sprinting), we start to reduce the rest time. We cut it to 50 seconds, and then 45. This will make your sprint session drastically more difficult. Also, when we get to this level, we start adding shuttle runs, which I will explain in a later post. But we work to 4 sprints of 14 seconds and 4 shuttles. Here are a few tips about sprint workouts.
1. Find a few sprinting partners. This is the workout we talk the most trash about. No one is talking about who’s finishing first or last. That doesn’t matter. We’re talking about who’s “too soft” to sprint, and who’s not showing up to the toughest workout. This peer pressure can be the added motivation you need when you’re talking yourself out of going to the workout. I find that I don’t look forward to sprints, I always make them way worse in my mind than they really are, and 10 minutes after I’m done I feel great.
2. Start slowly. If you haven’t been sprinting in awhile, it’s best to start out well below your 100% speed. I have a friend who is a college sprinter, and he never gets to 100% when he’s training. I do get to top speed for the most part, and haven’t had any injury problems, but even at 85% of top speed, you will be getting a great workout. The problem with going too hard too early is that you’re going to get hurt. No question about it. You’re going to get a hamstring injury and be hobbling around for a few weeks. It’s a much better idea to run below top speed for awhile and gradually work up. Trust me on this.
3. If you miss a sprint session or two, regress. If you have been working your way up and progressing in your sprint workouts, when you miss a workout or two, you think about how hard it’s going to be to jump back into that progression. This can lead you to talking yourself out of missing more sprint workouts. It’s much better to go back a little bit and get out there and train then it is to stay where you are and not sprint at all.
If you consistently hit at least one sprint session a week, it will only take a few weeks before you start to notice your conditioning improving. My jiu jitsu athletes and basketball guys all come back in the gym after a few weeks of sprint training and talk about how they never get tired any more during practice/training. Feel free to contact me with any questions or feedback you have!
“If you don’t foam roll every day, you’re an idiot.”
-Mike Boyle, world class strength coach
Although foam rolling has been around for over a decade, it is still slow to catch on in fitness and athletics. I coached high school basketball for nearly a decade and we rarely used a foam roller and that was still more than any of my other colleagues. And, when I walk through most health clubs I rarely see anyone foam rolling. When we understand the benefits of foam rolling, it seems crazy that everyone isn’t rolling out daily. However, I think the lack of foam roll use is due mostly to the fact that people don’t know how to foam roll and don’t understand why we should. The focus of the post today will be making the case for why we should foam roll daily. Here are three reasons you should be foam rolling. Continue Reading
“Exercise science has treated the muscles like a big meaty furnace. We engage in muscular activity to burn calories and produce a cardio-respiratory demand. This has proved to be effective for caloric expenditure and maybe even improved cardiovascular health, but it has not left us moving well. We didn’t set quality movement as a goal-we focused on quantity. If we compound our incomplete exercise platform with a predominance of sedentary activities, we are left with extremely poor movement patterns.”
I have been having a few talks over the last few months with Dewey Nielsen, my mentor, friend, and elite level strength coach, about the most important issues in the areas of strength and conditioning. Actually, these have been more “listens” than “talks”, as I seem to learn a lot more when I shut up and take notes. But, one issue that I have been really kicking around is how critical movement QUALITY is. I have written about this in a few other posts, but the issue deserves a little deeper discussion. Continue Reading
“The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man. “
One of the ways I have been helping people move better is by using the balance beam. Now, let me start by saying that the balance beam is not the be all end all. It is just a useful tool. And, it is an easy way to help people start improving their motor control (upgrading their software). And, people seem to really like it, because it is different than what they are used to doing in a fitness setting. Most adults haven’t been on a balance beam in decades, so it is a fun challenge and something they can quickly improve on. And, added stability leads to improved performance. All people can benefit from moving better.
When I attended the Functional Movement Systems training, I was blown away by one of the stats I heard. Half of the people (that’s right 50%) 75 years or older die within 6 months of falling. Now, there are various theories on why that is. But to me, the startling part of the statistic is that falling is essentially a death sentence for elderly people. Continue Reading
“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions. “
~Oliver Wendell Holmes
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have been lucky to be surrounded by a ton of knowledgeable people, and I am learning so fast I struggle to keep up. When I first started narrowing my focus on improving performance and training methods, I was turned on to something called the joint-by-joint approach that was created, as far as I can tell, by Mike Boyle and Gray Cook, two guys I have also mentioned earlier. This idea has made a ton of difference in how I understand training and improved athletic performance. Let me do my best to explain the importance. Continue Reading
“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.”
Even though I allowed myself to get really overweight, I have always been interested in the idea of improving human performance. As a high school basketball coach for nearly a decade, I was almost obsessed with finding the best, most efficient ways to help others improve. Every time we would have tangible success, I would note the methods used to improve, and then would try to improve on other areas, or find new strategies, better than the current procedures.
Over the past year, I have been focusing my attention and time on one question, “How do we improve the athletic performance of individuals?” Now, initially, the question was more centered on weight loss, and overall fitness, but as my research expanded, I started to consider how we become better athletes. Maybe people will say, “I’m not in high school or college anymore, why does it matter if I can become more athletic?” At first this seems like a valid point. However, when you consider that 50% of people 75+ years old die within 6 months of falling, you begin to realize, we ALL must focus on moving better. Continue Reading