NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Sprint into the New Year: Do’s and Don’ts of Sprinting for Fitness

ThinkstockPhotos-610859290.jpgThe New Year is just around the corner and many will be out to improve themselves on many levels in 2017, with health and fitness usually being number one on the list. If losing weight, increasing lean muscle tissue, and sculpting a lower half that will certainly turn heads, while all at the same time improving your heart health is what you are looking for, I have one answer. The use of sprints in the world of fitness and sport performance is nothing exceptionally new, but can be new to you. Actually, sprinting (fast, short bouts of running) was used to stay alive long before we used it as a mode of training.

Author Mark Sisson has spent a great deal of time spreading the message of the importance of sprinting to overall health, and that it was a huge part of daily life for our early ancestors. He believes, and I like his theory, that primal humans (represented by a caveman known as Grok) owed their fitness to three important concepts:

  • They walked great distances during their hunting and gathering trips.
  • They lifted heavy things such as building materials and large animals.
  • They sprinted for their lives from time to time from wild animals, and chased down game for their paleo dinner.

So Mark says, walk a bunch, lift heavy things (and set them back down, of course), and sprint once in a while, and fitness will find you. I think he nailed it. There isn’t much difference between a sound fitness program and what I just described. So why is sprinting so important and beneficial?

The Benefits of Sprinting

There are easily a hundred benefits of sprinting. This acute stressor can have many positive effects on your body. Here are just a few benefits of adding sprint work into your training:

  • Sprinting can be used across all fitness levels.
  • Sprinting doesn’t take a lot of time to do.
  • Sprinting burns fat.
  • Sprinting improves endurance.
  • Sprinting improves insulin sensitivity.
  • Sprinting is a fun and easy way to get and stay lean.

When implementing sprinting into your training, there are some pretty important steps to follow. To help you get started, here are a few tips that will get you on your way to sprinting more in 2017.

Step 1: Prepare Your Feet and Mobilize Major Joints

Feet: https://nifs.wistia.com/medias/7w84n4t9px

Mobilize: https://nifs.wistia.com/medias/l6m3ft8v72

Step 2: Perform a Proper Warmup

Warmups: https://nifs.wistia.com/medias/x6i393bxk3

Step 3: Ease into Sprinting

When starting your sprinter program, follow a progressive level of intensity and volume. You do not want to start out with all-out sprints for 100 meters for sets of 5 to 10. That is a surefire recipe for an injury at worst, and failure to perform the movement properly at best.

A great tip I picked up from Eric Cressey is to start by sprinting uphill first before moving to the track or any flat surface. This will help with proper mechanics and decrease the chances of injury because you are less likely to overextend. Your timed intervals should start at a 1:2 work-to-rest ratio and gradually ramp up to a 1:1, and even a 2:1 ratio. For example, do :20 of max work followed by :40 of rest, then repeat for the desired number of sets.

The recovery from the sprint is just as important, and I would recommend using your heart rate to tell you when it is time to go again. Waiting until your heart rate is 110bpm or lower before starting your next bout is a good general rule. I am also a huge fan of using your heart rate both as a measure of intensity and for determining your rest. You would rest until your heart rate recovered to 110–120bpm before starting your next set. The bottom line is that there will be no first-place ribbon waiting for you at the end of your sprint, so know your limits and use a progressive program when implementing sprinting.

Step 4: Mix It Up with Different Types of Sprinting

Treadmill: https://nifs.wistia.com/medias/bsjs720s4a

One of the best things about sprinting is that there are several ways to sprint, and sprinting is relative to you. If you give everything you’ve got into a sprint, that is where the work is done, but it doesn’t mean you will be breaking any land speed records (unless your last name is Bolt). Your sprints don’t have to be rep after rep of 100m dashes; it just has to be a near max effort for a few reps or a short period of time. Those who claim they just got done completing 20 sprints were probably not maximally sprinting. If you intersperse a couple periods of higher effort levels with periods of lower effort levels, you will be in good shape (pun intended).

Here are some other sprinting options:

Sprinting can be a fun and very effective training tool in both fat burning and performance. I can’t stress enough the importance of a proper warmup and easing into higher-intensity sprints. Stay healthy so you can stay moving! (And if you have injuries, see this blog for tips on working through it.)

Ready for another challenge in 2017? Train with us in our Mini-Marathon and 5K Training Program! Starts July 25th!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness injuries sprinting paleo heart rate warmups new year joints

Warming Up Before Your Workout

ThinkstockPhotos-498944002.jpgHave you ever gone into the gym and jumped right into your workout, only to notice that it took a good 20 minutes to get into it? Or how about heading out for a run without any form of warming up, and you really don’t start to feel into your rhythm until halfway through?

I know that I have experienced both of these things, and I also know the value of warming up before you begin a workout! Warming up before you start has several benefits that I will talk about, as well as giving you a few good exercises to get yourself moving.

Why Warmups Are Important

Some key benefits to getting in a warmup before you begin to lift or do cardio exercise is that it is one of the most efficient ways to avoid an injury. You want to be sure to get all parts of the body moving to keep yourself from getting hurt. Also, warming up is important if you want to be sure to get the most out of your workout by moving efficiently and reaching your peak performance.

How to Warm Up

The warmup is the prep phase of your workout. This needs to include static and dynamic movements to get the body going. You also want to be sure to incorporate some corrective exercises and foam rolling to get the blood pumping, stretch the muscles out, and make your joints more limber. Getting blood moving through the body and to the muscles will help to increase your body temperature in preparation for movement. Stretching helps to also warm up the muscles and help with making your body more stable, mobile, and flexible. And you want to be more limber so that you are more mobile when beginning exercises and explosive movements.

You might be thinking, “Okay, so what does a good dynamic, all-around warmup look like?” Here are some things that you can include into your warmup (and which take maybe just 10 minutes):

  • Toe-Touch Squats
  • Glute Bridges
  • Bird Dogs
  • Inch Worms
  • Pushups
  • Planks (Side Planks)
  • Lunge Reaches
  • RDLs
  • High Knees
  • Butt Kicks
  • Lateral Lunges
  • Side Shuffles
  • Frankensteins
  • Knee Hugs
  • Line Jumps
  • Reverse Lunges
  • Body-Weight Squats
  • Mini Band Steps

Maybe it’s a time thing, or maybe you just don’t like to warm up, but I want to encourage you to get yourself moving in preparation for working out and see what a difference it makes. Ask one of our Health Fitness Instructors at NIFS to show you some good exercises and come in for a free fitness assessment to get started the right way!

Free Fitness Assessment

This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center workouts injury prevention stretching warmups