If you haven’t sprinted since you were forced into the 100m on sports day in year 9, the word might bring with it horrific flashbacks to standing on grassy starting line. Even as sprinting has gained popularity on social media, with terrifying videos of blurred legs jumping on and off high speed treadmills, it feels like it’s something that’s only for the experts or fear-free among us.
It doesn’t have to be scary, says Risqat Fabunmi-Alade, a fitness coach and sprinter who has competed at the British championships.
“Let go of any preconceptions you have about sprinting,” she says. “You’re not competing, you are not lacing up and wearing a bib. There is no pressure, it’s just part of your fitness routine.”
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In fact, Risqat touts sprinting as something that benefits not just your power and strength but as great form of exercise that will help with endurance too. Sprinting helps to increase your speed capacity, which in turn can help you in the longer, slower runs as well. “But the best thing about sprinting is that it’s really accessible and doesn’t take that long,” she says.
She recommends finding an athletics track, a flat pavement or tarmac in the park or using the treadmill (as long as you can do so safely) to start sprinting. Follow her tips to learn how:
Because sprinting is a high impact activity that is explosive and fast, you need the muscles and joints to be ready before starting. It’s so important that for athletes like Risqat, a warm up can last up to 50 minutes. “For recreational sprinting, you don’t need to do that much. But you need something to raise your heart rate and something to start loosening up your joints and your muscles,” she says.
That means a light jog, some dynamic mobility stretching and then some drills.
Before you begin, you should also be practicing sprint drills. These are movements that warm up and train specific muscles for the activity ahead. In sprinting, they might include leg cycling and arm actions. “There are a plethora of people on Instagram who put out drill videos and technique information,” Risqat says. “But if you want that one to one expertise, and can afford it, I’d recommend finding a good PT or run coach.”
“You need to be strong to run, whether that’s for sprinting or long distance running,” says Risqat. “Sprinting is powerful hoping from leg to leg for a long period of time, you need to be able to cope with the demand of that.”
Change the distance
“People always associate sprinting with set distances of 100 or 200 metres. But in my training we do distances from 20, 30, 40 metres… all the way up. Don’t get stuck on those Olympic and professional distances,” Risqat says. You can measure distance on google maps or using a wheel, but “don’t get caught up on it. If you aren’t training to compete then it doesn’t matter if it’s a rough estimate,” Risqat says.
Try this sprint workout
After your dynamic warm up and drills, begin with sprinting between 50 and 60 metres. Run the distance as fast as possible, then walk slowly back to the start line to recover. Do that up to three times. Follow up with three sets of plyometric work or jump variations to build strength up.
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).