Sprint training is done at, or very near, maximum speed. Although, this may seem obvious, it is sometimes not realised that only repetitions of up to a maximum of 6 to 9 seconds can be completed at top speed. If it is longer than this, then this is speed endurance - ie the maintenance of a high speed for the duration of a run. Technically, the reason for this is that this duration of run will deplete our most easily accessible energy reserve (ATP), which lasts only this length of time. Once depleted it takes about 3 minutes to replenish from our glycogen stores.
Many runners will find that they can sprint no more than 30-45m in this period, whilst even the very elite will cover at most 80m or so.
Often this kind of work will be done only in the summer and in conjunction with the practice of starts (whether they be from standing, crouching or blocks).
Sprint work can be done in combination with other training by putting at the start of a session and following it with some running over longer distances to achieve a double benefit from a single session. In these cases, the shorter, faster work should always be done first or else the risk of injury is increased due to running at top speed when fatigued.
Sprint Training Variations
There are a number of different ways in which athletes can practice running at top speed. These include
Sprints from standing or tri starts (meaning one hand on the floor)
For example timing 30m where the athlete has a run up to the start line
In and Outs
Here cones are set up at 10-15m intervals and the athlete works hard between alternate cones - relaxing, but still moving quickly, on the others.
This is a good way to get some fast running done where the athlete runs "naturally" because they are concentrating on changeovers.
Here is a video explaining some of the ways in which we start in races, so you can see how some of the above is done.
Sprint Session Example
A typical top speed session for a sprinter might be 3 x 30m flying runs, then 3 x 40m from blocks all with a full recovery, followed by some speed endurance work, for example 4 x 150m with 6 minutes between each repetition.
It can be helpful to have someone else observing your sprinting or recording you on a camcorder. Ideally, this person will be experienced at picking up good sprint technique, but even if they are not, you can use their feedback for example by asking them specific questions. For instance, to what height do my arms reach at the front and back of my arm swing, if you know what skills you are trying to perform.
As mentioned above, drills are very useful in improving running technique - please see the separate drills section.
In order to be able to sprint efficiently, a good running technique is important. This can be improved by thinking about how you are running and maintaining relaxation as much as possible.
Concentration on sprint technique in the warm up and, particularly, in the performing of strides and drills over a period of time will hopefully lead to good technique being transferred to the full sprinting action subconsciously.
Running Session Types and Definitions
- Running Strides
- Race Starts - All Distances
- Speed / Speed Endurance
- Lactic Acid Training
- Interval Training
- Fartlek Sessions
- Steady Running
- Recovery Runs
- Threshold / Tempo Runs
- Split Run Training
- Pyramid Training
- Hill Running
- Paarlauf Intervals
- Running Races