Learn how to sprint

A lot of people, especially joggers, are not able to sprint. Like young kids, they just cannot push off hard and their “sprint” is just running with a longer stride. I just read an article from another blogger about how to sprint, which quite frankly was bollocks. It was like telling a golfer the 37 things to concentrate on whilst swinging the club.

You learn sprinting by undertaking specific exercises not by thinking about landing softly or having a certain gait. It is a style that is developed and there are specific exercises that will develop the ability as well as the correct muscles.

So how effective is this?  Playing rugby at 49 years old I can run faster than 20 year old kids in the A team.  Why? technique.  They haven’t got a clue how to run fast.

So here goes!

1st Exercise: High knee running. Over a 20 metre distance take very short strides and lift the knees as high as possible. Aim for at least 40 strides. Repeat this 3 times.

2nd Exercise: Strides. Over a 50m distance go from jogging to longer than normal strides, increasing the speed.

3rd Exercise: Running on the balls of your feet. Similar to striding but focus on landing on the balls of the feet and not heel-toe running. You will probably have to run slower to be able to do this to start with.

4th Exercise: from lying to running. Start in the top of a push-up position, arms locked. Gradually start to cycle your feet underneath you, lightly at first (looks a bit like running in a cartoon as the feet move but you don’t) then apply more pressure with the ball of the foot until you move forward. If you fall flat on your face, don’t worry, just push up ever so slightly. The trick is to keep as low as possible, almost lurching forward. If you just stand up and run then you are doing it wrong. This exercise gives you the correct position for the crouched sprint start. Repeat 6 times, running about 10m each time.

5th Exercise: Bunny jumps. From a crouched position, jump/bound like a bunny with both feet together. This develops a lot of leg strength required for good sprinting. Do about 6 sets of 20m.

6th Exercise: Hills runs. Pick a fairly steep hill and run with longer strides on the balls of the feet for 50m. You should be breathing very heavily at the top. Walk slowly down. Repeat 6 times.

7th Exercise: Leg speed. Stand leaning into a wall supported by your arms. Run with high knees without going forward (there is a wall in the way), focussing on speed of raising the knees.

8th Exercise: video sprints. Get a friend to video you sprinting. This is priceless. Compare yourself to a sprinter with great technique on youtube. Let’s not focus on Usain Bolt’s technique as it is highly unlikely that you have his genetics. So find someone who is roughly your height and your body type. Again, it’s unlikely you have the same physique as some of the top sprinters, however more lightweight sprinters who were excellent in terms of form would be the likes of Colin Jackson. Although a hurdler his form was superb and he was a lightweight.

Once you have practised these speed is developed by practising to run.  Warm up well and do a few of the routines above.  Take the first sprint in a set slightly slower.  You might find that technique disappears quickly, this is due to tiredness.

Typical training sessions for speed – if you do one of these twice a week, within 6 months you will run faster than almost anyone on the park (depending what level you started at).

  • 8 x 60m.  This is a flat out sprint.  Take as much recovery as required.
  • 6 x 150m.  90% full speed. Full recovery.
  • 6 x 200m. Over 200m you should aim for 80% full sprint speed.  Recovery is a slow walk back to the starting point.
  • 6 x 150m with rolling start.  Rather than a standing start, build up speed slower than a full sprinting start.

At the end job, warm down and stretch.  If you have run fast enough and pushed yourself hard enough, you might have a feeling of nausea, tingling in the mouth and teeth, pins and needles in the fingers, dizziness, generally feeling absolutely knackered.  If you can walk away feeling completely ok, you were not sprinting.  After the first full session, the next day you should have a lot of muscle soreness.  Go for a gentle run, get the muscles completely warm and stretch.

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