RUN! For Your Life
The most functional activity that you could ever do as a human being, regardless of age, is run. We are a species born to run, and for the majority of our existence we required the ability to run in order to survive. That meant an all-out sprint every once in a while to escape danger, hunt prey, or maybe just for kicks or competition with our pals.
When you break into an all-out sprint, there is a resulting powerful neuroendocrine response that stimulates your genes to build stronger muscle, thicker bones, and faster nerve impulses – thus allowing you to go faster next time! Sprinting also fires up your metabolism (can you say weight loss?), improves your insulin sensitivity (so you burn fuel efficiently), and sculpts your body into a lean mean machine (woohoo!).
One of these athletes spends hours on end at a chronic pace, breaking their body down slowly, and the other trains intervals of very brief all-out efforts followed by plenty of rest and recovery. Can you guess who’s who? It’s no secret which of these two athletes is healthier, more functional, and more like our ancestors.
Sprint training can be done as little as once or twice every two weeks on top of your regular exercise programming. I do them once per week on top of my Crossfit training, and I have noticed a tremendous improvement in my explosiveness. The cool thing about sprint training, whether swimming, biking, running, rowing, etc… is that on top of improving your anaerobic fitness (short bursts of speed), it also improves your cardiovascular fitness! But this doesn’t work the other way around. Read more about these metabolic pathways in the October 2002 crossfit journal.
Listen up! A word of caution - if you are a beginner or have not sprinted in a long time, make sure you ease into this slowly. Start by gradually picking up the pace of your walking, then go to a slow jog, then to a run, then to uphill walking/running to dampen the impact, then to all-out sprints. There is potential to injure yourself, since sprinting requires a good base of strength, fitness and flexibility. Make sure you scale accordingly. This goes for sprints in other activities, too, like swimming, biking, rowing, doing laundry, etc.
Sprint training can be done with any activity and at various intervals. I usually train anywhere from 10 to 30 second intervals, with anywhere from 1-2 minutes of rest in between sprints. I will usually do anywhere from 4 to 12 rounds of this 1-2 times every 2 weeks. For beginners, pick up the pace for 10 seconds, and rest for 2 minutes. Do this 4 times in a row every week. I promise your body will improve quickly! A great resource for sprint and distance interval training is the crossfit endurance website.
As the 2007 Crossfit Games, champ James Fitzgerald said: “Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.”
Go get some!
Your health coach,
Dr. Ryan Hewitt