I’ve talked about the benefits of slow and steady activity before. Walking is the primary example of the type of low intensity, easy activity I’m referring to. It’s in our genes, if you will, to walk for hours every week.
Modern ‘man’ has forgotten that. I recommend that you walk (or do some other steady state, low-intensity, aerobic-type activity) on a daily basis.
Another thing we’ve forgotten is the importance of sprinting. Historians and exercise physiologists alike tell the tale of sprinting being our birthright, just like walking (steady state activity) and lifting heavy things. The Big 3.
Understandably, we may have evolved beyond the day-to-day “need” for sprinting as a survival mechanism… but that doesn’t mean we should overlook its role in our genetic history or ignore the benefits it offered our ancestors… and can offer us. Sometimes, our advancements don’t make us all that “advanced”!
Sprinting, by the way, is not just running as fast as you can. (Although it can be.)
A sprint is an intense movement performed at the highest speed &/or greatest effort you can muster, for a very brief amount of time (a “burst”), while keeping it safe. You can definitely sprint on a bike, in a pool, or play sports that naturally involve bursts and recovery periods.
Some movements require bursts of intensity, but don’t exactly move you very quickly – like pushing something big and heavy, or like pulling my kids in a sled in deep snow! These are still good “sprints”, considering their physiological effect.
Let’s keep this simple and not over-analyze. Sprinting is moving fast and hard for a short period of time (could be as little as 5 seconds up to a minute or so), followed by a recovery period. How long? Well, there’s the whole Tabata training that rips you off when it comes to recovery (!), but offers great results… but most experts in this field recommend that your recovery time is loosely proportional to your burst time. More on that later.
So, why should we sprint? Simply because it offers tremendous benefits.
- Sprinting intervals improve insulin sensitivity, lipid profiles, circulatory function, and boost growth hormone (a fat-burning hormone, among other functions)
- Sprinting improves the fat burning potential of muscle, in fact, helping you rely more on fat and conserving more glycogen during the exercise.
- Sprinting improves endurance capacity. (Yes, even though sprinting is anaerobic, it does this!)
- It may sound obvious, but sprinting is a highly effective way to improve your speed and agility, even in youngsters like adolescents and pre-teens. Sprints in the vicinity of 10 – 20 meters have been shown to make these kids more “athletic” overall. Their parents need to join in! We need more agility to prevent the “oldness” that comes with getting older!
- Sprinting gives our bodies a different look. In my opinion, it’s a very good look – strong, lean, powerful, and sleek. Consider the difference in the physique of an elite sprinter or short-distance runner compared to that of an elite marathon runner. (OK, make sure you’re picturing sprinters that are steroid-free!) Sprinting makes us lean, but strong. We use more of our body in full-out sprints, and we use those body parts in a more complete range of motion. Think of arms pumping to increase your efforts, and think of the great, big, beautiful strides to cover more distance. Nice.
- Arguably, sprinting is King when it comes to efficiency. Get in, get it done, get out. There’s some serious bang for your exercise buck here. It’s over with very quickly, yet you don’t (usually) feel completely spent and useless afterward. Your body is just happily reaping all the benefits of high-intensity interval training… burning fat and feeling strong & fit as it whistles along.
- Sprinting also has an uncanny way of reminding you how ALIVE you are! Giving something your all is very rewarding, indeed.
I give you more info on sprinting and cardio work out ideas in here…
How to Start Sprinting
- Aim for one day per week that you’ll sprint. Maybe two.
- Warm up first. Do some dynamic stretching: walking knee raises, high knee “tuck” jumps, walking lunges, leg swings, “air” squats… that type of thing. BUT, do just a couple sets of these warm –up stretches. Too much will tucker you out ahead of time and negatively impact your sprinting.
- Do 3 or 4 little runs (or cycles, or whatever you’re doing) to prepare for your sprinting. Aim for 60, 70, 80, and 90% of YOUR full intensity as you’re warming up.
- If you’ve already been exercising and feel pretty good about moving your body with intensity, shoot for 8-10 sprints. If this is too much, just do as many as you can. Do you think 1 or 2 is better than couch-warming with a bag of Doritos and a diet pop? You bet your little behind it is! Do what you can and feel good about it.
- Sprint for 5 or more seconds, depending on your condition and experience. You might sprint for a certain amount of time, or for a specific distance, like ‘sprinting to the second telephone pole over there’. Go to YOUR maximum effort.
- Run like an animal! No, really. Humans have a tendency to run like goofballs, slamming their feet into the ground and flailing about! Think like a cheetah… feet landing lightly as you cruise across the ground. Wear spotted workout gear. It might help.
- Rest in between sprints. Take a minute or two between sprints, or even longer if you really need it. The longer you sprint, the longer you need for recovery. If you’re running the 100-meter dash, or going full-out for 30 seconds, you might need two or three minutes to recoup. If you’re doing the equivalent of a 40-yard dash or 20-30 second bursts, you might just need a minute or two. Take the time you need to get ready for your next burst.
- Keep in mind, you’re aiming for once per week. If you’re doing 8-10 full bursts in that one session, beautiful. If you’re not there yet, or choose not to be there at all, then you can break it into a couple shorter sprinting sessions with fewer bursts.
- I’ll write another article about all the “What if’s”: What if I’ve got pain? What if I can’t run? What if a squirrel chases me? I’ve gotcha’ covered. For now, focus on hitting YOUR maximum effort, and keeping it safe. Know your limits.
- By the way, as counter-intuitive as this may seem, sprinting up a hill is actually “easier” on the joints. You might want to give hill sprints a try… see what you think. Be careful and know your limits.
Try not to over-think this.
I believe that being “anal” about exercise parameters is NOT a good exercise. There are better exercises for your gluteal region! (In fact, sprinting is one of them!)
What I mean by this is, allow room for spontaneity in your exercise and movement. Maybe you head out for a stroll one morning, and suddenly feel the urge to sprint to a mailbox or sign down the path. Or, you decide to join your dog in chasing a squirrel or bird. Go for it (just keep the barking to a minimum)!
Remember the big picture here:
- Move daily.
- Do something steady-state and low-intensity every day.
- Stretch, bend, reach, lengthen, move your spine.
- A couple times per week lift, heavy things.
- Once (maybe twice) per week sprint.
- Look for ways to incorporate play.
Exercise isn’t all about rigidity. We need to make room for fun while we move. Our bodies should be enjoyed, too… not just trained!
Dr. Colleen Trombley-VanHoogstraat (“Dr Mom Online”) is a leading expert in Natural Health & Wellness. She is a Doctor of Chiropractic with 18 years of hands-on clinical experience in the Wellness Practice she shares with her husband, Dr. Marc VanHoogstraat, in Michigan. She is also the proud (home schooling) mom of two rather fabulous youngsters.
Her unique perspective of the science of Wellness provides predictable solutions and transformational results for those struggling with chronic health issues, as well as those seeking lifelong health. To discover her simple strategies for creating better health through nutrition, movement and mindset, regularly visit http://DrMomOnline.com, http://Facebook.com/DrMomOnline and http://Twitter.com/DrMomOnline.
Also, check out her available books at http://amazon.com/author/drcolleen .
For more information about working privately with Dr. Colleen and Dr. Marc in an Integrative Health Recovery Program for any number of metabolic and health issues, such as thyroid imbalance, weight loss resistance, hormonal imbalance, food sensitivity & gut permeability, cellular detoxification, and more, please contact Dr. Colleen directly at email@example.com. Distance programs are available.