We all know that sprinting makes you a faster runner. Even though sprinting uses a different type of stride than distance running, it is still a critical part of training. It builds muscle and power, and gets your body used to moving fast. Plus, track workouts can be – dare I say it – a whole lot of fun. Maybe it’s Type 2 fun, but it’s fun nonetheless.
As with any kind of workout, you will need to gradually get better at sprints in order to benefit more from them. So what about becoming a faster sprinter? How do you work your way up to impressing your running friends on Track Tuesday? That’s what this article will cover: how to sprint faster and up your running game.
What is Sprinting?
Sprinting is running extremely quickly over a short distance. It differs from distance running in that it is a full-out effort that you can only sustain for a short period of time. Whereas distance running is all about sustaining pace, sprinting is by definition and anaerobic effort. The longest distance that is considered a pure sprint is 400m, or one lap of the track. If it’s short and fast, it’s a sprint.
Because you are running at full speed with a sprint, lactic acid will build up in your body more quickly than a traditional run, and you will fatigue faster. It is for this reason that sprinting cannot be sustained over long distances or periods of time.
Benefits of Sprinting
If you’re looking to build your strength and improve your leg speed, you have to sprint. Runners who spend time doing speedwork get faster and can get in a good workout in a shorter period of time. And it’s not just leg speed. Sprint workouts are also an important tool in boosting your VO2 max.
If you’re looking to lose weight, you can do so much quicker with sprinting as compared to distance running or jogging. Not only are you burning more calories in a shorter period of time, but you also will burn additional calories after the workout is over, kick-starting your metabolism.
Finally, because you’re working fast-twitch muscles when you’re sprinting, you’ll help improve your heart function. Because you’re going all out, your heart will pump faster and improve your overall blood circulation.
What are Common Sprinting Distances?
Depending on whether you are a track and field athlete or just an adult runner, common sprinting distances can vary.
Track and Field Athletes
For track athletes, the common sprint distances are 100m, 200m, and 400m. Indoor track also features a 60m event. Finally, for a modified or middle school track, common distances are 55m and 200m.
For those of us who are runners and not as familiar with track distances, 200m is ⅛ of a mile, or half a lap.
Like outdoor track athletes, many adult runners will do 100m and 200m interval workouts. These are different from track events in that adult runners will do several intervals at these distances.
For example, a fast repeat interval workout might look like 10 x 200m at 30 seconds with a 2 minute rest in between each interval.
Tips to Sprint Faster
There are a variety of things you can do to up your sprinting game, and the most important thing is remembering that sprinting is a different animal that running 5k at a conversational pace. You need power and muscle activation to be a good sprinter; it’s more than just fast running.
As with all running, it’s important to warm up first to run faster. Before you start your sprints, warm up with dynamic stretching and a light jog. This means leg swings, high knees, Frankensteins, and so forth. You are unlikely to ever pull a muscle doing an easy-pace distance run. But sprinting can put far more stress on your legs – especially your hamstrings. Warm-up is a non-negotiable before a sprint workout.
Once you’re warm, focus on your sprint form. You want an upright torso, making sure that your shoulders are not sagging and that your back is straight. You should have a high knee kick and a high back kick after each stride. Bring your heels all the way up so that you’re kicking your butt.
You are trying to engage more muscles in your legs and glutes, as this will give you a more powerful stride. Additionally, if you increase your quad and hamstring strength, this will help you with sprinting faster.
Use Your Arms
Don’t forget that your arms are there for a reason. Use them. In fact, arms are far more important in sprinting than in distance running. Pumping your arms helps create momentum. You want your momentum to be headed forward, not to the side. So remember: swing your arms front-to-back, not side-to-side across your body.
Shorten Your Stride
Although it’s somewhat counterintuitive, shortening your stride will help you go faster, giving you a faster turnover. A sprinting stride is definitely longer than a distance stride, but remember that all of your speed is generated when you are in contact with the ground. Focus on leg speed and turnover. Shorter strides conserve energy and keep your power on the track.
And don’t forget to stay relaxed, breathing deep breaths. You should especially remember to keep your jaw and neck relaxed; don’t clench your teeth.
Know the Difference
Finally, make sure that your body has a clear indication of the differences between walking, jogging, running, and sprinting. For intervals, if you start slow and accelerate quickly in a kind of rolling start, you will be teaching your body the differences between these four speeds.
Many recreational distance runners heel strike. Sprinters, on the other hand, are typically very much up on their toes. Some never even allow their heel to touch the ground at all. Running this way is far more explosive (but also more fatiguing).
What are Good Sprint Times?
Obviously, how old you are, your experience level, and your sex will impact what is considered to be a good sprint time.
High School Athletes
If you’re a male, a good sprint time is between 10-11 seconds for the 100m and 21-23 for the 200m. If you’re a female, a good sprint time is between 12-13 seconds for the 100m and 23-25 seconds for 200m.
Middle School Athletes
For males, it should be somewhere between 7-8 seconds for the 55m and 7.5-8 seconds for females. For the 200m, a good sprint time for middle school males is between 23-25 seconds and add a couple of seconds for middle school females.
Males should be a little bit faster in college, closer to 10 seconds for the 100m and 21 seconds for the 200m. Same for female athletes, who should be closer to 12 seconds for 100m and 23 seconds for 200m.
Adults Who Are 20-40
As a male, you should aim for 13-15 seconds for 100m and 26-28 seconds for 200m. For a female sprinter, 14-16 seconds for the 100m and 28-30 seconds for the 200m are good times.
Adults Who Are 40-50+
For a male masters sprinter, 14-15 seconds is a good time for 100m with 28-30 seconds for 200m. For a female masters sprinter, 15-16 seconds for the 100m and 30-32 seconds for the 200m are good times.
As with anything, becoming faster at sprinting will take some time, but with the proper form and technique, you’ll see yourself making strides in sprinting and becoming a faster sprinter.