Hopefully by now I don’t have to convince you of the massive value you get from incorporating occasional sprint workouts into your fitness routine. Sprinting offers a host of benefits. It upregulates your ability to burn fat at all levels of effort and intensity (yes, even if you’re competing in an ultramarathon or sitting at your desk) and complements your resistance training by helping to build strong muscles, bones, and connective tissue.
In short, sprinting rocks, and it’s my mission to get more people up and sprinting. In a previous post, I went into detail about how to put together a proper sprint workout. Today I’m going to show you exactly how I incorporate sprints into my life.
Nine times out of ten, if I’m sprinting, I’m running, preferably on a beach. Sometimes I’ll instead hop on the stationary bike, so I’ll detail that as well. Remember, though, these are only two of many ways you can “sprint.” Any activity that allows you to quickly elevate your heart rate and breathing rate and deliver brief, high-intensity efforts will work.
Without any further ado…
My Sprint Routine
Warm-up: 10 minutes of brisk walking/slow jogging. Maintain a heart rate well below aerobic maximum per Dr. Phil Maffetone’s formula of “180 minus age” in beats per minute.
Wind sprints:3 to 5 wind sprints where I run for perhaps 10 seconds, but only two seconds are near my top speed, after which I immediately decelerate.
Sprint! On the rare occasions I’m working out on a track or football field, I’ll pick a fixed distance like 50 yards to run. On the beach, I select a landmark such as a lifeguard stand or large piece of driftwood that I know I will reach in around 10 seconds at a full sprint. Then I conduct between 4 and 10 sprints, depending on how I feel. Usually I’ll walk for a minute or so in between each sprint, but sometimes I take longer. Again, just play it by ear. Quit as soon as you notice any muscle tightness, breakdown in form, a slower than typical time for the same distance, or an increase in effort needed to achieve the same time.
Cooldown: I end with a gradual cooldown consisting of 7 to 10 minutes of light jogging or brisk walking, maintaining a heart rate below “180 minus age.” At the end of the cooldown period, I have stopped sweating and have a near-normal heart and respiration rate. Usually I’ll wrap up with a few more dynamic stretches to cap things off.
Active Recovery:In the ensuing 24 to 48 hours after the sprint workout, I make a devoted effort to walk, engage in dynamic stretching, maybe throw in some foam rolling. It’s now clear that the most powerful recovery tool is gentle movement.
Stationary Cycling Sprints
Warm-up: 10 minutes of easy pedaling keeping heart rate well below “180 minus age” in beats per minute.
Dynamic stretching and preparatory drills: You can do these on a bike (or other equipment like rowing machine or elliptical) by exaggerating your range of motion. On the bike, I will try to hyperflex my ankles during each pedal revolution, alternatively trying to touch the ground with pointed toes and dorsiflexing the ankle so the heel always rides high. I will also pause for a moment and lean forward onto my hamstring for a couple seconds, then resume pedaling.
Wind sprints: Five quick accelerations up to sprinting speed, pedaling for perhaps 10 seconds with only two seconds at near-top speed.
Sprint! Since I’m not going anywhere on the stationary bike, I use a fixed time duration of 20 seconds. I’ll conduct between 4 and 10 sprints, taking at least 50 seconds of easy pedaling with very light resistance between sprints. Again, the exact number depends on how I’m feeling on any given day.
Cooldown:Around 10 minutes of easy pedaling, maintaining a heart rate below “180 minus age.”
Active Recovery:Same as above.
Finally, let’s wrap it up with some easy take-home points that review everything it takes for a powerful sprint workout routine.
Choose an activity that if safe for your body and fitness level. Running sprints will arguably deliver the most benefit, but they also carry the most injury risk. Don’t be afraid to try various options.
Only sprint on days you feel 100-percent rested, energized, and ready to deliver an all-out effort.
Do not skip the important preparatory steps of an aerobic warm-up plus dynamic stretches and drills. These prime both the body and mind for the forthcoming effort.
Conduct main set with appropriate work efforts (4 to 10 reps lasting 10 to 20 seconds) and plenty of recovery in between reps. Stop any time form or performance start to falter or you feel yourself slipping mentally.
Cool down with 5 to 10 minutes of easy cardio.
Keep active over ensuing days.
Recover completely before the next sprint workout. One sprint workout every 7 to 10 days is all you need!
Thanks for reading, everyone. Get out there, go hard, go home, and report back about your experience. I look forward to hearing from you!
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.