Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
22 Jan

15 Reasons to Sprint More This Year

SprintA couple weeks ago, I gave you 17 reasons why you should walk more this year, citing dozens of studies in my attempt to convince you that walking is a healthy, effective endeavor for everyone and anyone. But it’s not the only thing you should be doing if you can help it. If you have the ability, I strongly believe that you should also be sprinting – at least (and maybe at most) once a week. The effects of regular sprinting on your health, your body composition, your fitness, your strength, and your susceptibility to disease are so impressive that it’d be foolish not to. I’ve said it before and even enshrined it in the Primal Laws to accentuate its importance, but here it is again: you should sprint more this year.

Why, though? Let’s hear some specific, science-based reasons to get up and move as fast as possible:

1. It preferentially burns body fat.

Weight loss isn’t just about eliminating any old kind of body mass. It’s about losing body fat while preserving or even gaining muscle and bone. Sprinting appears to be excellent at eliminating body fat without the negative impact on muscle mass commonly seen with excessive endurance training. A recent study found that a single sprint session can increase post-exercise fat oxidation by 75%. Not that this is a surprise, but even in young adults with an intellectual disability, sprinting improves body composition by reducing body fat.

2. It’s anabolic (that means it can increase muscle mass and strength).

An acute bout of sprinting increased dihydrotestosterone in healthy young men, while in overweight young men, a sprinting program increased lean mass in the legs and trunk. (In one study, men and women did three 30 second all-out sprint intervals on the stationary bike with 20 minutes of rest in between each sprint. Muscle biopsies were taken from their quads and analyzed for markers of protein synthesis – how muscle gets laid down.

3. It’s even more anabolic in women than men.

Yeah, yeah, you don’t wanna “get all big and bulky.” I know. But ladies, it won’t happen to you unless you’re somehow using an exogenous source of anabolic hormones to reach supraphysiological levels that you’d otherwise never reach naturally. More lean mass for you means more “tone,” less body fat, and more strength. In the previously mentioned study, female protein synthesis was up by 222%, male by 43%.

4. It makes you better at accessing body fat during other types of exercise.

Sprinting primes the substrate utilization pump, so to speak, for other activities. In one study, a two week program of cycling sprint interval training increased the rate of (body) fat oxidation (and decreased the rate of glycogen utilization) during subsequent lower intensity sessions in women.

5. It builds new mitochondria.

The basic function of our mitochondria is to extract energy from nutrients to produce ATP, the standard energy currency of our body. More mitochondria, more power available to our brain and our body, more fuel burned, more energy produced. It’s a generally good idea to have healthy, numerous mitochondria, and scientists are constantly trying to figure out how to preserve or increase their numbers because so many degenerative diseases are characterized by malfunctioning mitochondria. Well, sprinting is one way to make more. A single bout of 4×30 second all-out cycling sprints activated mitochondrial biogenesis in the skeletal muscle of human subjects in one study. Shorter sprints work, too. In fact, a program consisting of three sets of 5 4-second treadmill sprints with 20 seconds of rest in between each sprint, done three times per week for four weeks up-regulated molecular signaling associated with mitochondrial biogenesis.

6. It even works if you go slowly.

Allow me to expand on that statement: it even works if you go slowly because you’re pushing a heavy weighted sled. If that doesn’t sound like an advantage to you, consider someone who can’t run a flat-out sprint on a flat surface because of prior joint injuries. Pushing a heavy sled (or a car) slows the person down, thus reducing the joint impact, without making the exercise any less intense. Research shows that heavy sled pushing is extremely effective.

7. It’s more efficient than endurance training.

Obviously, sprint training takes less time to do than endurance training. But did you know it’s just as effective in many regards in a fraction of the time? Sprinting three times a week (4-6 times per session) was just as good as spending five days a week cycling for 40-60 minutes at improving whole body insulin sensitivity, arterial elasticity, and muscle microvascular density.

8. It takes way less time than you think.

A 30 second all out sprint is “just” 30 seconds, but it’s a hellish 30 seconds. A single hill sprint isn’t too bad, nor are two or three, but when you hit the eight, nine, ten sprint range, it gets rough. You will feel it after. Still better than slogging it out for an hour and half, mind you. I get the sense that most people think for any training to be effective, it has to hurt – even if only for twenty seconds or so. Actually, when you sprint, extremely brief intervals work very well. In this study, for example, subjects cycle-sprinted for a mere 5 seconds at a time and actively rested for 55 seconds in between sprints (that’s where you’re just casually pedaling on the cycle, equivalent to walking after a running sprint); that was enough to increase the maximum amount of work they were able to perform in 30 seconds. Instead of walking down the beach, I’ll sometimes traverse it in ultra-short sprint intervals: sprint for 5 seconds, walk for 20, sprint for 5, and so on. I don’t really even get winded doing this. Or if there’s a short (<10 meters) but steep hill, I’ll sprint up it, walk down, and repeat about a dozen times.

9. It’s a good excuse to get to the beach.

Doing your sprints on sand makes them more effective (and harder). A recent study found that sprint interval training sessions performed on sand resulted in better performances in subsequent training bouts, beating out grass as a training surface. I’ve also found that beach sprints enable post-training water plunges, regardless of water temperature.

10. It works for overweight people.

Sprinting may be the most daunting exercise of all for overweight people. How can moving that fast be safe or healthy? Well, there’s evidence that sprinting is extremely effective in this population. In a 2012 study (PDF), a group of overweight female students followed a 12-week sprint program consisting of 8-16 200 meter sprints done three days a week. After the program, body fat and body weight had gone down significantly, insulin sensitivity had improved by 100%, and V02max had increased. Another study, this time in overweight/obese men, found that a sprinting program (this time on a cycle) increased fat burning at rest while decreasing carb burning at rest – exactly what an overweight person needs to achieve to start burning body fat and become fat-adapted. The men also lost significant amounts of waist and hip fat.

11. It works for elderly people.

Oldsters needn’t stick with 2.5 pound dumbbells and “stretching workouts.” They can derive great benefit from high intensity interval training. Sure, they might go a bit slower than the rest of us. They might do better on exercise bikes than tracks. But they can still do it.

12. It improves glucose control and insulin sensitivity.

Diabetics, take heed. Sprint training improves insulin sensitivity, improves hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes, and lowers the postprandial glucose response in diabetics. You gotta start doing it if you’re not already.

13. It lowers high blood pressure.

Okay, while you’re sprinting, you’ll probably have sky-high blood pressure. That’s okay, that’s just an acute spike – it happens with any type of exercise. Overall, sprint training appears to have the most potential of any exercise modality for the long term resolution of hypertension.

14. It’s safe for people with heart disease.

Heart disease patients interested in improving their cardiovascular health are often told to start jogging or something similarly unpleasant. Why not sprinting? We already know it’s more effective against heart disease risk factors, and high intensity interval training has been shown to be safe in heart disease patients, particularly when they keep the intensity high and the duration low (15 seconds or thereabouts). Check with your doctor first, of course, just to be safe (but prepare yourself for the “jogging” lecture).

15. It comes in many forms.

When people hear “sprinting,” they think of 100 meter flat sprints on the track. Those are effective, sure, but they’re not the only way you can reap the benefits of sprint training. You can run hills (easier on the joints and more intense overall). You can cycle (easier on the joints and proven to work in dozens of sprinting studies). You can do it in the pool (either running in water or swimming). You can row or use the elliptical. Heck, if you loathe “cardio” of any kind you can probably get sprint-esque effects from lifting weights really quickly (think doing a set of 20 back squats or something similar). Upper body interval training works for general fitness in elderly hip replacement patients, for example. There’s something for everyone, which means there are almost no excuses not to sprint.

That’s what I’ve got. There are probably more reasons to sprint, but I think the 15 I discussed are a good start. So get to it!

What about you guys? Why do you sprint? What are you hoping to get out of it? What have you already gotten out of it? Let us know in the comment section!

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  1. Until the risk of frosbite subsides, I’m stuck inside doing burpee sprints. Effective and brutal.

    This spring, I’m investing in a big pair of battle ropes so I can vary the sprint routine. Hills, burpees, flat sprints, and battle ropes should keep me going until everything freezes again.

    His Dudeness wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  2. ”In one study, men and women did three 30 second all-out sprint intervals on the stationary bike with 20 minutes of rest in between each sprint.” Wow, that’s a lot of rest. Is that optimal for the anabolic compound of sprinting?

    Natalie wrote on January 22nd, 2014
    • I was wondering about that too– bet it was 2 minutes.

      Paleo-curious wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  3. The article states that DHT is the premiere sex hormone responsible for muscle growth. I thought that T was responsible for muscle growth, not DHT.

    David wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  4. I work on the second floor so sometimes I “sprint” up the steps. When I have to go to the 3rd or 4th floor I even sprint up as far as I can up them.

    2Rae wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  5. Perfect timing! Getting ready for sprints later this afternoon.
    I have found it is much more enjoyable if you have a training partner to push you, and if you change the method each week. One of my favourites is wrapping a rope around the other person’s waist and slowing them down to walking pace while they go all out… you can shout motivation from directly behind!

    Luke wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  6. And it is so fun!!! Talk about a runner’s high afterward. I feel like I’m skipping on a rainbow afterward. :)

    SDevlin wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  7. Heavy sled? How about a jogging stroller with a tiny toddler and some firewood in the back! On a hill! Done and done.

    Megan wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  8. So, here’s a question about what qualifies as sprinting:

    Are burpees sprinting? Specifically, 10 sets of 10 over 10 minutes. That works out to 30 seconds of work, 30 rest.

    How about kettle bell swings, similar type thing, 10 sets of 10 over 10 minutes?

    What about jumping rope fast? Box jumps?

    It seems that these meet the criteria of being just intense bursts of hard work.

    Any thoughts appreciated.

    pablo mablo wrote on January 22nd, 2014
    • Yes. I live in one of the snowiest places in the world in upstate NY. For my sprinting in the winter I do jump roping …specifically double jumps. Do about 300 of those in different intervals and you will get a good sprint workout.

      John wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  9. What about skipping? Does that do all the same things if you do high intensity intervals of it?
    I like to skip most days is that bad because you said not to sprint more than once a week?

    Genevieve wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  10. I think anything that really gets your heart rate up such as skipping, burpees, etc would have the same effect. One you could do in the house is speed skaters, where you jump from side to side. Just look on youtube for – tabata speed skater
    When doing tabata exercises I always think it is easy for the first couple of sets and feel shattered by the end.

    Anne D wrote on January 22nd, 2014
    • Hmmmm, I wonder if the “speed skater” type of movement would get rid of what I call jodhpurs, a bump of fat at the top of my thigh. I know us women are supposed to be a bit more bumply than men but I don’t like the way it looks on ME, ahahahahaha. Thanks for the idea Anne D.

      2Rae wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  11. My heart is pacemaker-dependant. Does the advice to sprint apply also to me? It can certainly adapt my rate but is it still good for my heart muscle under artificial stimulation?

    Jerry Adams wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  12. Okay, okay! You’re right. I need to add the sprints back into my routine. Once they were a weekly key activity, then I got out of the habit and lost my sprint machine and never got a new one. I’m still a little too out of shape to run the track. I’d kill myself. I was a low-impact sprinter and weekly sessions made a HUGE difference in my body composition. I gotta get back! Thanks for this!!!

    Rhonda the Red wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  13. Hmmm…an observation here…I haven’t counted but I would guess that at least 40% of the comments here are people trying to find some way to avoid sprinting..which is exactly why you should sprint!!!!! In my experience, there is absolutely nothing else like sprints. Other things are hard and will make you breath heavily, but nothing else I know of comes close to the total body explosive force workout that proper sprints provide. I play a lot of full-court basketball, run stairs and do explosive movements like cleans and none of those is the same or even close.

    Some context…even as an otherwise primally in-shape person, my first attempts at sprints we pathetic and no one watching from a distance would have thought I was sprinting. It took ,many months to even get to the point where I could sprint without pain in some muscle group. Even now if i do something else for a few weeks (like just biking) it takes a few weeks to get back into sprinting shape.

    Most of the people I see “running” have a severe flaw in their form, like feet not pointed forward, legs out of alignment, etc. and sprinting will quickly reveal those problems. I think the notion that sprinting is hard on the joints is total nonsense..bad form is what is hard on the joints ,whether, walking sprinting or whatever, so fix that.

    Explosive movement is an essential part of almost all athleticism, so arguing about muscle fiber involvement is, again, an attempt to avoid just committing to sprinting.

    Sprinting requires running on the balls of the feet, and that requires a lot of calf/achilles tendon conditioning in itself, so jumping on the ball of one foot forward backwards and sideways (in each direction sideways for each foot) is something I have found to be really helpful.

    It could well be that for most people, it could take more than a year of conditioning before someone can even do a short sprint at all, but that is no reason to not do it. To me, the ability to sprint is an essential indication of youth at any age, and just because it will be the hardest part (perhaps the only hard part) of the primal philosophy is no reason to not do it. It’s kind of disturbing to see people in this community who are quick to embrace immediately pleasurable things like eating butter, turn around and bike, swim, jog etc. away from something that requires a somewhat difficult commitment.

    Superchunk wrote on January 22nd, 2014
    • Actually, what most people are trying to avoid is getting injured, which is definitely a risk with regular sprinting – even with proper form. Not to mention, sprinting isn’t an option for many people during the winter months when snow and ice are covering the ground. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with viable alternatives, as Mark mentioned several in his post.

      Ann wrote on January 22nd, 2014
    • Right on Superchunk. So well said. Sprinting is unlike any other form of explosive activity. It’s so taxing and yet, so good. Keep sprinting. I know I will.

      Josh wrote on January 22nd, 2014
    • No, it is just people trying to figure out a way to sprint when the sidewalks are covered in ice!!

      pablo mablo wrote on January 22nd, 2014
    • Thanks for some excellent points. I’m the 75 year old who posted on 1/23 re: alactic sprints in the sand with poles. That’s my thing, but rowing machine, bike, bike ergometer, and cross country ski machines are all suitable for sprinting for people with physical issues. Sprinting a lot on hard surfaces is not a good idea in my opinion, especially if you are not young. One needs to be able to do it up to one’s personal max and protect the body at the same time.

      Your point about the various expressions of sprint avoidance is well taken, but I see this as the flip side of turning sprinting, which can be exhilarating fun, into some form of self-imposed torture. Tabatas are the poster boy for this kind of sprinting: excessive exertion interval, way too short recovery interval, and too many reps. Check that cortisol level, bro! Absolutely no need to do it that way.

      Mark needs to do a post about “How to Sprint” that guides disoriented PBers progressively toward achieving the maximum benefits of sprinting with minimum risks and side effects.


      Dan Williams wrote on January 28th, 2014
  14. Just look at an Olympic distance runner versus an Olympic sprinter. I’ll take the sprinters body.

    BFBVince wrote on January 22nd, 2014
    • Performance enhancing drugs and all? Anyway, you won’t get the body without the genes…

      SumoFit wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  15. We just discovered a website and app called 12 minute athlete. Doing the randomly picked exercises about 4 to 5 times a week. Love it! All done indoors and seems like it qualifies as sprints.

    Janet wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  16. Interval training is great. For us guys 60 and older, all out sprinting can cause your Achilles heel to snap, then you are in rehab for a LONG time. May not be worth the risk, but if you’re going to do so starting out doing a few at half pace then incrementally increasing the speed is probably a good idea.

    George wrote on January 22nd, 2014
    • And be sure to stretch that Achilles’ tendon!

      SumoFit wrote on January 22nd, 2014
    • As an “only” 50y.o. guy who witnessed a tennis opponent’s Achilles snap, I’m super cautious–and always start slowly after a decent warm up. Good advice.

      Tom B-D wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  17. Think my sprinting will improve if I could improve my pelvic floor muscles… after 4 babies, sprinting and trampolining require concentration to ‘switch on’ the right muscles!

    Rachael wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  18. Sprinting is the best. A nice motivator for all-out sprinting is the IPhone app JogRunSprint which can be downloaded for free on Apples appstore. It uses the 10-20-30 technique which means you jog for 30 seconds, run for 20 seconds and spriiiiiiint for 10 seconds. This is repeated several times. Awesome!

    Heine Skov wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  19. A 7-min HIIT “scientific” workout is an gruesome combination of sprinting and resistance training. Brings back the Paleo character :)

    Dmitri @ Relenta wrote on January 23rd, 2014
    • I would be wary of anything calling itself a “scientific” workout. It sounds like the exact opposite of fun.

      I doubt prehistoric/paleo societies engaged in “gruesome combinations of sprinting and resistence training” unless they absolutely had to, i.e., negotiating natural disasters, fighting off predators and rival tribes, etc.

      This idea of “working out” and burning calories is a VERY modern one. Movement was a natural part of hunter-gatherers’ lives, not a separate activity they undertook to prepare them for what they already did, if that makes any sense at all.

      I’ll bet they played games and danced a lot, though. :)

      SumoFit wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  20. I love sprinting because it makes me feel like I am a kid again :)

    As a kid I sprinted all the time without thinking about it.
    As an adult (I am reaching 40 y.o this year), I feel the same: while sprinting, I don’t think about anything, the mind is sort of shut down or on stand-by and your body takes over. Awareness without the inference of the usual train of thoughts is greatly enhanced while I am sprinting.

    It is a no-brainer, we are meant to sprint and feel good about it.

    La Frite wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  21. Do some sprints while jogging on beach at Mark’s suggestion and up the stairs (30-40 steps from beach to street). Real workout though is up Signal Hill! Uphill sprinting truly gets me a-huffin’ and a-puffin! Often they’re very short sprints because my heart’s hammering so it scares me, and I don’t know if that’s healthful? Didn’t Jim Fixx croak that way?

    Corey B. (Long Beach, CA) wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  22. i usually go for a walk in the woods and in the middle, when warmed up , i put into a series of sprints from tree to tree, from stone to road , etc. makes my walk more fun and satisfying also for my mood. sometimes i do frog jumps uphill and that is tough

    paleozeta wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  23. Might be worth pointing out that, according to the relevant study, the rise in dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is acute rather than chronic….My first thought was, “Crap, so it’s going to make me bald?”

    KevvyB wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  24. Your article has inspired me to start today! Have done 10 x 20 second sprints! Half killed me …. But feeling really positive!

    AnnFlan wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  25. Thanks, Mark. This post really spoke to me. I definitely need to do sprints 2 or 3 times a week, as opposed to once a week – sometimes.

    Susan B. wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  26. I am getting back in to cycling, after reading this I put my cycle in to the turbo trainer and warmed up for 10 minutes and then every 55 second’s sprinted for 5 second’s 20 times. Is great for me as I don’t have much time with work and idea to do during the winter.
    I thought of adding 2 stone of weight to my bikes panniers (The weight I have lost in 10 months more or less) as I live on the top of a steep hill and cycle up and down twice at a faster pace than normal!

    Martin wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  27. Has anyone tried a HIIT type routine done w/ compound barbell movements (squats, press, bench press, a deadlift variation, etc.)?

    Mark mentioned 20 rep squats at the end of the article, but I’m wondering if that type of thing has been/could be incorporated along with or maybe even in place of sprinting (in a pinch) and incorporate upper body movements as well. I’m aware of barbell complexes but I’m looking into something more specific to strength and hypertrophy. I’ve tried HIT but I don’t think that provides the repetitive metabolic work / protein synthesis signal that something like a tabata sprint protocol would provide (and which I’m guessing is really the secret to all the benefits).

    FWIW, the closest I’ve tried to a “tabata” like protocol with heavy weights is something called “cluster sets” and got some great short-term results, probably the best ever, and I’m a long-time fan of moving iron. Problem was the long workouts lead to staleness (psychological if not physical) so I’m looking for a protocol like that but more time-efficient.

    Anyone aware of / experimented with that type of training?


    Dave wrote on January 23rd, 2014
    • Tabata back squats — 20/10/4

      Once a week on my “sprint day” I do one or two sets.

      I use tabata pro app on iPhone ; other good video timers free on YouTube

      I do low intensity warmup first on elliptical or treadmill.

      Start with empty bar back squat (front, dumbbell or BW also options) — try to get 10 reps on each 20 second work phase.

      The goal is to go fast to push heart rate and respiratory rate as far as you can.

      If you can do 12 or more ass to the grass reps on all 8 sets and are not gasping for air when done, add 10 or 20 pounds to bar next time.

      I posted links to a few random YouTube examples on my website.

      I am able to do 95 pounds now but can only get 6 or 7 reps on the last 2 sets, however I know I have pushed myself as hard as I could.

      Mark, as usual, is spot on here in this post; it is the only ‘cardio’ I routinely do, but a few times when I have tested my endurance, I am pleasantly surprised with better cardio respiratory reserves each time ; I believe it compliments my heavy lifting squat and deadlift days.

      Tabata is the perfect combination of intensity and short breaks — when you are breathless or weak you can push yourself to the 20 second point because ‘it’s only 20 seconds’…… Midway through the set if you feel like quitting, it is easy to tell yourself “keep going — only 90 seconds left”…

      Joe wrote on January 25th, 2014
      • One more thing:

        I have experimented recently with ‘ tabata farmers carry ‘ — walk briskly with barbell plate or kettle bell — use heavy weight that you can barely carry for 30 or 40 paces — set them down to take break for about 5 good breaths then repeat till your grip or breath gives out….

        Joe wrote on January 25th, 2014
      • Thanks Joe, I am planning to integrate your “Tabata Squats” idea into my weekly workout rotation. BTW, I checked out your website and noticed that you use Starting Strength methodology for your heavy lifting. I’ve made great gains from SS, and maybe even more importantly I think the way they teach the lifts is the safest way to effectively perform them.

        What are the “BBS” negatives you mention?

        Dave wrote on January 25th, 2014
        • Ripptoe’s squats and deadlifts are the mainstays of my heavy lifting.

          BBS is the book Body By Science — since I recently had surgical repair of my ruptured my biceps tendon and had an old AC shoulder joint surgery repair that will never be normal, my surgeon and physical therapist recommended light weight, high rep negatives for my chest, shoulders bi’s and tri’s to avoid future injury — so I incorporated his recommendation with the fundamentals of Starting Strength and BBS (‘time under load’ and ‘inroading’) and decided to focus on 7 to 10 second negatives (see Youtube for examples of BBS slow reps) on bicep dumbbell curls, military press, bench press, tricep overheads and other shoulder raises — I use a weight that I can handle for at least 60 seconds and push myself to get 90 to 120 seconds time under load per set. I do multiple sets with a minute break to the point where I can’t continue the slow reps for 60 seconds; once a week.

          It is working well from a pain perspective and I am experiencing less AC joint grinding ; my shoulders seem more stable.

          Joe wrote on January 25th, 2014
  28. I find I get good results from to randomising my sprints – sometimes running, sometimes swimming, skipping (jumping rope) or bag/pad-work (punches &/or kicks).

    I do a sprint session when I feel particularly energetic or if I don’t have time for a longer workout usually every 7-10 days, but sometimes more, sometimes less frequently. Get a good buzz this way.

    A strange thing I found when I started running sprints was how it hit my lower biceps from pumping my arms – I’m pretty fit and do a fair bit of punch training with martial arts, so I was surprised that this was a previously unused muscle.

    WelshGrok wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  29. For all those in northern, snowy places, why not get some x-country skis or put on some snowshoes. If you really feel the need/desire to sprint (running) maybe get some track shoes with the little spikes. How about sprint shoveling the driveway after a dump. That will get the heart pumpin. As many above have said; there are many way to “sprint”. No need to restrict or confine yourself to being inside. Have fun.

    John wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  30. I’m 75 years old, and I do maximum intensity sprints in soft sand at the beach using Nordic trekking poles. I think this is the absolute best and most productive exercise of all the various things I do to keep my aging body vital and functional. I have both objective and subjective reasons for saying this, and, with apologies up front for the length of my comment, I am going to try to make it clear why I believe so strongly in this form of exercise.

    First, sand is obviously not essential for sprinting, but it is an ideal surface because it virtually eliminates shock to joints, absorbs more horsepower than any other running surface, and produces a unique adaptation since no two footstrikes are identical. So much for sand.

    I’ve been walking and running on the beach with trekking poles for almost nine years. Trekking poles actively engage arms, shoulders and back and transform forward locomotion into pretty much a full-body exercise. Sprinting with trekking poles adds to the quality of the exercise, but one needs to be progressive in using poles: get comfortable walking and then running before sprinting with poles. So much for poles.

    I’m a little uncomfortable when the term “sprinting” is not defined. Confusion reigns. A fellow geezer acquaintance talks about doing a 3-minute “sprint” up the hill to his house. I try not to let him see me roll my eyeballs.

    Here is my definition when sprinting is done with the legs: (Cycling or rowing require their own definitions.) A walking pace is about 2 strides per second. A running pace is about 3 strides per second. A sprinting pace is from 4 to 4.5 strides per second. End of story.

    The “sprinting” Mark is talking about in his post is obviously a form of interval training. In any interval training there are three big questions: (1) How long should the active exertion interval last? (2) How long should the recovery interval be? And (3) how many repetitions should be performed? Controversy abounds.

    Because I do ALACTIC sprinting, these questions answer themselves quite definitively for me. Alactic (without lactic acid) exercise is exercise that primarily engages the phosphagen anaerobic energy pathway. The phosphagen energy pathway utilizes ATP stored in muscle cell mitochondria and ATP quickly converted from adjacent creatine phosphate (CP). This energy system is only engaged when highest intensity effort is summoned – as in flat-out sprinting. When this energy pathway is engaged, no lactic acid is produced, which means the muscles accumulate no contraction-fighting protons. But, this system can only provide enough ATP for about 8-14 seconds of all-out effort. When the phosphagen pathway becomes exhausted, the glycotic pathway (converting glycogen to ATP + lactate anaerobically) has to carry the full load of producing muscular contraction. Protons start to accumulate and maximum work output begins to drop off.

    This physiology determines the length of the active exertion interval for me. By experience, I’ve learned that I can go flat out for 50 strides (about 12 seconds) before I can feel myself start to slow down a little. So I go 50 strides as hard as I can and then stop.

    Why stop? My exercise goal is power and speed. Flat out sprinting causes my body parts to move through their greatest range of motion with the greatest force and speed of which I am capable and thereby produces optimal disruption of all involved muscle sarcomeres. When my body rebuilds, it rebuilds for maximum power and speed. That’s the theory. In my subjective experience it works.

    After stores of ATP are exhausted it takes the body anywhere from 90 to 180 seconds to fully replenish ATP and CP. This replenishment period determines the recovery interval. I keep moving at a walking pace and check my recovery time so as not to zone out and exceed 3 minutes. With experience one can easily feel when one is ready to go again.

    I repeat this cycle (usually from 4 to 6 times) until, even with full recovery of energy stores, I can’t go full speed anymore. This happens not due to lack of ATP but because the series of flat out sprints have disrupted (broken down) a sufficient number of muscle fibers to make the previous level of work output unavailable. Good time to stop.

    When one builds up to this routine gradually and systematically, there are NO sore muscles the next day. One walks and even runs normally, but sprinting is not going to be a happening thing. Because I am older, it takes me 4-5 days to fully recover and be ready to do it again, but even younger people should give it 3 days.

    Unlike Tabatas or flat-out 200-yard sprints that generate major agony, I find these short, hard sprints exhilarating and invigorating. They are fun. Part of it, I am sure, is being able to scream down the beach at age 75 like I was still in my 20s. But I believe part of it is just inherent. People were mos def born to sprint! Hoo-yah! Do it!

    Okay. One more thing. One of the biggest problems facing older people is sarcopenia, the progressive loss of muscle mass as they age. Loss of muscle mass has multiple negative health consequences. In typical sarcopenia, Type 1 (slow twitch) muscle fibers tend to be preserved. It is the Type 2 (fast twitch) muscle fibers that are disproportionately lost because older people stop doing the activities that stimulate Type 2 fibers.

    Maximum intensity alactic sprint intervals, especially with the upper body engaged using poles, is in my opinion, among the ultimate Type 2 muscle fiber building/preserving activities one can engage in. Feel great now. Feel great later.

    Dan Williams wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  31. I’m so glad I LOVE sprinting! :)

    Kevin Grokman wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  32. What about a leg press versus a heavy sled?

    Terry Abel wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  33. I do them at work on the stairs that lead to the second floor and I’ll do them on my bike when I ride the rollers. Tried to do them outdoors but I am not accustomed just yet to sprinting with my Vibrams.

    Nikko wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  34. What about the High Intensity biking that Dr. Mosley on the BBC Horizon program espoused? It’s a lot easier on the knees for a start and less time to complete.


    bert wrote on January 25th, 2014
  35. It’s winter in NYC, so I broke down and joined a (super cheap) gym, and I’ve been trying to sprint on the treadmill but I get tired and bored so I’ll do approx 3 30 second sprints, then grab my mat and do some planks or something, and repeat with sprinting and mat work for about 20 minutes.

    I feel like it works (I’m getting more toned) but people are SO confused by me at the gym. Should I be sprinting for longer durations, and is it better to do other workouts on other days?

    I am not athletic at all and could use advice!

    amy wrote on January 25th, 2014
  36. I see the terms “chronic cardio” a lot, but what does that mean exactly? I actually jogged today for 20min at an easy pace of ~5 mph– is that chronic cardio? Bc it was low-level…
    Also, how do you do sprints? I have been doing 30sec walking, 30 sec sprints repeated 8 times on the treadmill but I don’t feel as “tired” afterwards (although I feel it the next day!). Does that mean I’m doing them wrong?

    Elle wrote on January 25th, 2014
    • Second part first:
      Sprinting is giving maximal effort for a short time. If you go at that intensity continuously for more than a minute when your life does not depend on it, that’s not max effort and intensity. Not being tired 5 or ten minutes after a sprint session is part of the point–less time, energy, and effort, same or greater benefits. Soreness means your muscles are dismantling damaged fibers for the purpose of replacing them with stronger, more resilient ones. You’re doing them right.

      Mark has multiple posts on chronic cardio, and now a podcast, too.

      “Chronic cardio” is doing medium- or medium-high-intensity exercise for a relatively long period of time, and then doing it again before your body has recovered. And again, almost every day, never allowing enough recovery time between your (long) workouts. Chronic cardio is running 10+, 15+ miles per day, 5+ days per week, at 70-80% of your race pace.

      Chronic cardio is expending lots of energy over a long period of time (an hour or three), which makes you tired and hungry afterwards. Food is more energy-dense than exercise. Muscles build, and moreover, repair themselves by first *destroying* the damaged or inadequate fibers and then building new, stronger ones in their place. The dismantling phase involves inflammation. Acute inflammation is usually good, and often a part of the healing process; chronic inflammation is bad, causing much damage and poor health. Chronic cardio is going for yet another long, up-tempo run before your muscles have repaired, before the inflammation has subsided.

      Chronic cardio is chronic inflammation and gradual overuse damage induced by exercising relatively hard for too long, too often, persistently.

      20 minutes at an easy 5mph (=12 minute mile) on foot is not chronic cardio. 200 minutes per day, every day, at a 7 minute mile pace definitely is. Multi-day backpacking trip? Probably not. A five, six hour persistence hunt once a week? Not chronic at all. 3, 4 times a week? Depends who you are.

      Bill C wrote on January 25th, 2014
      • Thanks, that helped a lot!
        I was wondering though, is it useless running 5mph for 20 min-should I just have sprinted for 4min instead:P?
        I have heard how endurance running builds different muscles than sprinting (slow-twitch vs fast-twitch muscles or something like that), and it’s better to get leaner muscles through endurance running than sprinting, in which case I might start incorporating low-level cardio with my sprints. Any thoughts on this?

        Elle wrote on January 25th, 2014
  37. I do a kind of burpee ladder sence its cold and icy out. I start with ten then rest. Then nine and rest…… tell one. I give myself a minute to do the set then what evers left is my rest time. Its an ass kicker for me.

    Andrew wrote on January 27th, 2014
  38. So if I wanted do sprints on the treadmill and do it progressively (get better over time), what’s should I set as my program?

    Something like: 3 times a week, 5 sprints of 30 seconds followed by 3 minute rest, and try to increase my sprint pace every few weeks? (that’s a complete guess, I’m just looking for advice along these lines)


    Chris wrote on January 27th, 2014
  39. During the summer I tried to get into sprinting. I chose a field near my house and tried to just run across it as fast as I could (after a warm-up jog across at about half speed), stop to catch my breath, then turn around and do it again. At least that was the plan. In reality the warm-up is fine, but then the first real sprint makes me very nauseated and light headed. I’d normally wait until I felt a little better and try to sprint several more times, but I felt so sick that I couldn’t stick with it until my muscles were actually tired. I tried for several weeks but it didn’t seem to be improving. I’ve read some of the articles on here about the benefits of sprinting, and I believe it, but the feeling of being either about to puke or about to pass out is a very strong motivator for me NOT to sprint. Any ideas?

    Vikki wrote on January 29th, 2014
  40. I use my rebounder to sprint, I like to do x2 day 15 min sessions with aprox 8 sprints for as long as I can go( getting better, think its around 30 sec sprints). Do you think sprinting on a rebounder is a good method?


    Jeanine wrote on February 2nd, 2014

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