I read your column last week about high-intensity training, and I wanted to ask about proper form during the sprints. Is it different from proper form during easy running/jogging or merely a sped-up version of it? In other words, do I consciously alter my posture, movement range, etc., during sprints? Thanks for your help! – Jason
9 Steps to Faster Sprinting
The short answer is it’s both the same and different. The movement patterns of running and sprinting are similar in that you need to put one foot in front of the other, but sprinting is a more dynamic version of running (explosive, to be precise).
If you compared them on a continuum, walking to easy jogging would be on the left side, while sprinting would be on the far right. Both will get you from point A to B by landing right, left, right, left; however sprinting requires more power and muscle activation to cover the same stretch of road.
[Walking –> Jogging –> Running –> Fast Running –> Sprinting]
Another difference between jogging, running, and sprinting is foot strike. When walking, jogging, and running most runners land with a heel strike. The faster you run, the more you shift from heel strike to mid-foot to a forefoot landing.
The key to learning to sprint is to start with these nine steps:
1. Warm up. The harder you run, the more vital it is to warm up your muscles. Walk and easy run for five to 10 minutes and include dynamic exercises or drills like high knees, butt kickers, and skipping to further prepare your body to run fast.
2. Focus on posture and core. Keep your torso upright, shoulders relaxed and away from your ears, and engage your core (don’t collapse). Unleash your Superman pose.
3. Run with a circular motion. Think like a cyclist and run with a circular motion with your feet, your thighs parallel to the round, and your knees driving in an up and down motion (rather than an ovular or reaching out motion).
4. Land efficiently. Land on your forefoot and focus on pushing off from your toes to propel yourself forward and keeping your feet flexed upward toward your shins.
5. Drive your arms. Hold your arms in a bent position (90 degrees) and drive the elbows backward to create momentum. This is a more exaggerated arm swing than a jog, where your arms move through a wider range of motion with your hands coming up as high as your chin and backward toward your butt.
6. Shorten your stride. Long strides are energy wasters. Focus on cadence speed rather than distance as you sprint. You’ll run faster and more efficiently by taking short, quick strides.
7. Kick butt. As you push off from the forefoot and toes, bring your heels up toward your butt.
8. Breathe. Relax and sync your breathing to the rhythm of your feet. You’ll reduce wasted energy from muscle tension.
9. Perform “Rolling Starts.” Perform this drill to feel the difference between walking, jogging, running, and sprinting. Start by walking, and increase your speed every 10 seconds until you reach a sprinting speed.
As with anything in the high-intensity world, a little goes a long way. Work into high-intensity sprint training gradually to allow your body to adapt to the demands of the workout, and stick with it to see improvements in your running fitness and overall health.