| July 11, 2021
By Trevor Mah
Read time: 5 min.
Since the beginning of our existence, our bodies have developed to naturally move fast. Our ancestors during prehistoric ages were built to move quickly and fluidly to hunt and survive. Although we are many eons removed from having to move that quickly for our lives, we can still learn a lot from sprinting in order to maintain strong health in our present day.
Sprinting is a low-maintenance exercise that is limited only by your willingness to go all out. Properly incorporating sprint intervals into your training can be great for transforming your body by building muscle, losing fat, boosting your energy, athleticism, and more.
It’s easy to procrastinate on sprint workouts knowing how quick they can be, but also because many people tend to leave it until the end or consider it optional. Personally, I find sprinting to be a great option to other forms of cardio, and to be in the habit of performing all year round. You don’t necessarily have to aspire to be as fast as Usain Bolt or even compete to reap the benefits of sprinting.
When I mention sprint interval training, technically it doesn’t have to be specifically running. This is more like a type of burst training at a high level with specified periods of rest. You can apply these concepts to other means such as biking, stairs, and even some methods of resistance training. For the sake of simplicity and convenience, you can consider most of the points below to refer to sprints.
Staying Lean All-Year Round
Sprinting is a high intensity training method that helps with improving your body composition through a combination of improving metabolism, building muscle, and expending energy. Sounds like good things to have happen right? Growth hormone and testosterone can also be increased from burst interval training in order to elicit strong responses from our bodies to define our physical stature and health. These hormones are precursors for other effects that lead to building muscle and burning fat. As people age, it becomes harder to release these hormones so consistent sprinting can help slow the process against the inevitability of aging.
In addition to the benefits of these growth hormones, sprinting can also be seen as a method to preserve muscle without losing fat. There is always an inherent fear that cardio will cause you to lose your gains where it is seen as losing fat at the expense of muscle. Although there are other factors to consider, sprinting in general is more likely to help trigger protein synthesis instead due to its anabolic nature compared to its slower, endurance counterpart.
As with all high intensity exercises, frequency and volume should be considered. Although sprinting all out everyday may seem doable, your body will still need to recover in order to benefit from its effects. Nonetheless, sprinting can be done all year round to help maintain or improve body composition.
Improving Strength and Developing Power
The relationship between strength and power is tied together and goes quite in-depth when specifically training for one or both. From a technical standpoint, power is the ability to produce force quickly through the elasticity of the muscle in it’s stretch-shortening cycle. To put things in a simplified manner, training muscles to rapidly contract while outputting high force is important for power. Being strong is one thing, but being explosive is another. Sprinting bridges this gap as it allows one to express the potential developed from strength training into power that can be beneficial for athletic performance.
This relationship also has applications in reverse as well. Higher output ability also recruits higher threshold muscle fibers that may not be developed from slower strength training allowing one to improve the efficiency of their muscles as a whole. More muscle recruitment equals more capacity and potential for force production at all speeds.
Sprint Interval Training Works For Almost Everyone
For clarity, when I mean everyone, I mean anyone who is capable of running in the first place. But like I mentioned, there are other forms aside from just sprints. Imbalances, gait, and technique aside, burst interval training should also be related to your needs. If you want to get faster, then the benefits are obvious. But even people who are out of shape can benefit as long as these programs are adjusted accordingly to ability. An all-out sprint will vary between a seasoned athlete and a beginner, so keep that in mind as your ability to burst. For instance, if you are overweight, elderly, or have other preexisting conditions then even a brisk walk can be considered high enough intensity to ease your way into better conditioning. At the end of the day, find a style that works for you and can be sustained.
Better Cardio and Efficiency (Even for Endurance Athletes)
For longer and sustained training bouts, explaining this requires a quick rundown on energy systems your body uses during training. Longer lasting exercises are aerobic and utilize stored energy (glycogen) versus anaerobic exercises (high intensity but much shorter) that rely on adenosine triphosphate-creatine phosphate system (ATP-CP) to sustain. Energy systems do not solely operate independently, though shifts do occur to emphasize one more than the others based on what you are doing.
Sprinting can create overlapping instances of where anaerobic training benefits aerobic energy pathways by creating improved adaptations. As long as there are enough instances of these repeated bouts, the improvements include boosted muscle buffering capacity, better efficiency of stored glycogen in the muscles, and even prolonged work capacity in general.
In terms of efficiency, touching back on developing power is where burst interval training makes it easier for longer distance athletes. To keep things short, the higher your output, the less effort and energy is required to execute each stride. For example, if you are biking then with improved power, then your “cycle” revolutions are easier. Alternatively, the same output needed would result in more revolutions of each hit of the pedal compared to a state prior to developing this power.
I’m going to group these types of benefits under mental health because these are all relative to the individual. What ties them together is that sprinting is great for the brain and improving your mindset. For one, exercise in general releases endorphins and can give you a good hit of dopamine. We all know how this feels after we finish a good workout. Moreover, this can put us in a good mood if you are feeling stressed.
For others, the challenge of sprint interval workouts can provide a sense of accomplishment and help develop mental resilience. Truly giving it your all can give you confidence knowing that you completed something physically and mentally demanding.
In conclusion, there are many benefits for sprinting that cover many common health related goals. Go out there and give it your all today.
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