Most distance runners throw a little speedwork into their weekly grind every now and then to break up the long miles and boost their heart rate. Typical speed workouts include mile repeats, steady state tempos, fartleks, ladders, in n’ outs, or just a quicker pace run of the usual course.
But if you really want to improve your technique, not to mention your race times, it may be time to rethink your list of workouts and learn to run like a sprinter.
Benefits of Sprinting
Intense, short-repetition running puts stresses on the body to produce energy anaerobically. This way, when your aerobic ability has been tapped, you can dig deep and convert lactate into speed and keep pushing when others are hitting a wall.
In addition, sprinting can teach you to run faster while remaining relaxed. If you are more relaxed, you will be running more economically. Speed sessions are also a great time to work on technique. When moving at race pace, or faster, you recruit the exact muscle fibers you need for economical running.
What to Expect
Since the anaerobic system is being taxed during sprints, you won’t get the classic burning lung exhaustion more common in longer aerobic workouts. Instead, your lungs might feel great but your body feels like it is failing you. The point is to move fast without your form falling apart.
It’s really important to take the time for a full recovery in between reps. This can vary from runner to runner, but a good rule is you should feel you could perform the next interval as well as the previous one. Always be aware of the rest you take. Taking too much time off can cause the body to cool down and you don’t want to enter the rep with cold muscles.
Adding a speed workout once a week can break the monotony of intense mileage training, improve running economy, better your form, and give you the speed to kick down your opponents on race day.
In the coming weeks, we’ll post some suggested drills and workouts on incorporating sprints into your routine from Joe Rubio, coach extraordinaire and co-owner here at Running Warehouse.