Speed kills. In most sports, speed is one of the best assets an athlete can possess. In power and speed sports like football, basketball and lacrosse, it is imperative you can keep up with your competition. Your training should reflect the demands of your sport and is a large reason why more athletes should be sprinting instead of jogging. Even if your goal is to run cross country or long distance events, you would greatly benefit from sprints. Sprints help with speed (duh) to help shave time off your next race. Sprints also require quick energy and increase the amount of glycogen that can be stored in the muscle, providing more ability to hold energy with your longer distance work. Additionally, it has been shown to increase your lactic threshold, and even your VO2 max due to utilization of maximal power and endurance systems. Lastly, sprinting typically causes a person to utilize their most efficient gait (running) mechanics, and can utilize muscle memory to be more efficient with your running in the future. A lot of benefit can happen if you spend more time sprinting than jogging, regardless of your goals.
The ANNUAL injury rate for runners varies anywhere from 50-80% in the research. Imagine getting in a car that has a 50-80% chance of crashing in the course of a year?!? You would probably be a little skeptical about getting into that car. Picking up an activity to compliment your training that has this high of an injury risk is not in the positive end of the Risk:Reward ratio that we are looking for. Running is a very technically demanding activity. Great distance runners have adequate lower extremity strength, mobility, flexibility, power and technique that vary from team sport athletes. If you want to be a distance runner, that is great, and it is an incredibly rewarding activity. I ran the Twin Cities Marathon in 2014 and absolutely enjoyed the experience of being able to put in those miles. But as noted above, it is still advantageous to do both speed and strength training along with your distance work. But, and we cannot stress this enough, if you are trying to get better at football, basketball or volleyball, we need to change your mind set on distance running to reach your goals.
If you want to jump high or run fast, you need to practice jumping high and running fast. Going on a 3 mile run will decrease your likelihood of running faster or jumping higher. A great analogy that I use is with a baseball pitcher. If a baseball pitcher wants to throw a fastball 90 mph, which of the following strategies do you think he would use?
A. Throw 100 pitches at 60 mph
B. Progressively increase the speed of his pitches, starting at a comfortable warm-up and working towards maximum speed, with total volume around 50-60 pitches ranging from 60-85 mph
Option B is looking pretty good to me at this point, and is more practical. If you want to throw faster, you need to practice throwing as fast as you can. Although you don’t have to do all of your running at maximum speed, you need to get comfortable spending time at those higher speeds to properly prepare you for your sport.
Sprinting also requires an adequate amount of rest time and recovery to improve top end speeds. Running countless sprints over and over is going to tax your nervous system and produce less quality results than you are expecting. Work smarter, not harder.
Jogging, as afore mentioned, is a highly skilled activity. Despite the fact that most humans ‘can’ jog, does not necessarily mean they ‘should’ jog. In sports, adding distance jogging into a program that is focused on jumping higher and running faster will complicate the pathway to achieving the goals of the athlete. There are many great equipment alternatives to jogging that require less skill and overall stress on the body while still getting the aerobic benefits that we are seeking. The VersaClimber, Assault bike, stationary bike and SkiErg are all fantastic options to increase your aerobic base without compromising your health, speed or power. Other options include pool workouts and using an elliptical.
I hope you all take away a strong, positive message on how sprinting can improve your training and get you closer to your goals. Want to learn more from us at Bold Base Performance? Reach out to us at boldbasetraining.com to get started. We would love to help you reach your goals and optimize your performance.
Tom Broback, DPT, CSCS