Law# 5: Sprint Once In A While
Begin each workout listed in this section with a five-minute warm-up of low intensity walking or jogging (55-75% of maximum heart rate) followed by light stretching. Conclude each workout with a five minute cool down identical to the warm-up. Be certain that you have medical clearance before attempting any strenuous workout, including those described in the Primal Blueprint.
Novice Sprint Workout
Workout 1: 6 x 50 meter warm-up strides, 20 second rest period between strides. Focus on good running form and don’t worry about your speed. This is just a warmup for your sprint efforts. After your warm-up strides, commence 6 x 50 meter sprints (they should take 8-15 seconds each) at 75% effort. Take a one-minute rest period between sprints or otherwise enough to be fully recovered and achieve normal respiration before beginning your next sprint.
After two to three sessions over a few weeks time, increase your sprint efforts to full speed. Use a moving start (jog up to starting line and then begin sprinting) instead of a static start to minimize injury risk. Pay attention to the difference between leg fatigue and pain. If you experience any acute pain or tightness, particularly in your hamstrings, wrap up the workout immediately with an easy cool down and ice the offended area.
Intermediate Sprint Workouts
Workout 1: 6 x 50-meter strides followed by 6 x 50 meter sprints as described previously, building to 100% effort when appropriate.
Workout 2: Hill Repeats. 6-8 x hill sprint lasting 8-30 seconds. Recover by walking or trotting down the hill. Return to normal breathing before beginning next effort.
Workout 3: Accelerations. 6-8 x 30 second sprints with the first ten seconds at medium effort, second ten seconds at hard effort and third ten seconds at full sprint. 1-2 minutes recovery between efforts. You can use a running track and do 150 meter repeats – accelerating every 50 meters (start at turn apex, accelerate at straightaway, accelerate again at middle of straightaway, finish at traditional finish line) or any other course you can mark with 1/3 distance intervals.
Advanced Sprint Workouts
Workouts 1, 2 and 3 as described in previous sections.
Workout #4: Sprint Drills
- 4 x 50m strides at 75% effort. Ten second rest between efforts. One minute rest before next exercise.
- 2 x 50m skipping. Drive knee as high as you can (try to hit your chest), taking off and landing on opposite leg. Then launch off, and land, with opposite leg, driving other knee high into chest – like an exaggerated skip. Strive for maximum height instead of length. Fifteen second rest between efforts. One minute rest before next exercise.
- 2 x 50m bounding. Take as long a stride as possible, focusing on keeping your balance rather than speed. Thirty second rest between efforts. One minute rest before next exercise.
- 2 x 50m hopping. Take off on both legs and jump up and forward. Focus on achieving a good balance between height and length. Swing arms to assist effort and ensure a balanced landing. One minute rest between efforts (you’ll need it, trust me). Two minute rest before next exercise.
- 4 x 50m full speed sprint. One minute rest between efforts.
Workout #5: Stair Drills
This workout mimics the Sprint Drills but is conducted on stadium or building stairs. Your flight of stairs should take between eight and thirty seconds to ascend. Take thirty seconds rest between each exercise, or more or less as needed to feel refreshed and get your breathing under control.
- 4 x warm-up stair climbs at three-quarter effort. When you reach the top, return immediately down the stairs at a comfortable pace, then ascend again.
- 2 x single stairs. Ascend one stair at a time with rapid leg turnover. Descend comfortably and repeat effort.
- 2 x bounding stairs. Ascend by skipping as many steps as you can. Focus on keeping your balance rather than speed. Descend comfortably and repeat effort.
- 2 x hopping stairs. Take off and land on both legs, taking either one or two stairs at a time. Use handrail if you are concerned about slipping and proceed with caution. Descend comfortably and immediately repeat effort.
- 2 x one-legged stairs (caution: very advanced exercise). Ascend stairs by hopping on one leg, one stair at a time. Using a handrail for support highly recommended.
- 4 x full speed stairs. Skip desired number of stairs with each stride to get the top as fast as possible. Descend comfortably and recovery completely between efforts.
Workout #6: “Grokball”
This simple workout, inspired by Mark’s Daily Apple regular Grant Peterson, is a refreshing example of the simplicity of fitness in a culture where we habitually try to make things more complex than need be. In the amount of time it takes to get through the basic set up instructions of your heart rate monitor owner’s manual, you can capture the essence of Grok with this primal effort.
Take a five to ten pound medicine ball (depending on your own bodyweight and strength level) to an ample sized athletic field. After a five-minute light jog, grab the ball and throw it down the field. Sprint after it, pick it up and throw it again, completing repeat trips up and down the field. Discover numerous variations on the throw – overhead like a soccer throw-in, underhand like an old school free-throw, sideways one-armed like a discus thrower, sideways two-armed like a hammer thrower, roll like a bowling ball (one or two handed) or face backwards and throw over your head two-handed (watch out for little kids at soccer practice with the latter).
Be extremely careful about keeping your spine and neck in a neutral position every time you throw. Your legs and core muscle groups will provide the most leverage and receive the most training effect from the throws. Your spine and neck should always be in a straight line (angle to the ground might vary from perpendicular to forty five degrees depending on your throwing style) – don’t curve your back or neck fore-aft nor side to side. Make sure that the force of your effort is absorbed by your legs and core muscles. Begin with gentle throws that will give you a form check. As you fatigue after a few lengths of the field, you will have to be especially diligent about maintaining proper body position for your throws. When you notice that your ability to maintain correct form becomes compromised due to fatigue, it is time to stop the workout; the same goes if you experience any acute pain in your muscles or joints. Finish your session with five minutes of easy jogging.
Sidenote: Sprinting Away From Malibu
While I’m aware of the need to address Primal Blueprint enthusiasts living in varied climates with varied options for exercise venues, I obviously have difficulty suppressing my enthusiasm for one of my favorite workouts: Beach Sprints. As Mark’s Daily Apple reader Robert McLeod commented, “Hey Mark, not everyone lives at the beach. What about sprint workout suggestions for winter?” A good treadmill with a quick speed/incline response will work just fine, as will any building staircase for the “stadium” workout. If you don’t have a suitable indoor venue, or you are feeling adventurous, try doing sprints on cross country skis, snowshoes or ice skates. On my visits to the mountains, I’ve enjoyed doing sprints on snowshoes up a very steep hill in deep powder. It’s a fascinating athletic juxtaposition to compare the sensations of moving quickly on packed sand with barely moving up a steep hill at high altitude – while using the same motion and same effort level.
Cycling Sprint Workouts (All Levels)
Take a five-minute warm-up and cool down on bike at 55-75% of maximum heart rate for each workout.
Workout 1: Interval “ladder” consisting of a 15 second sprint, 15 second rest period. Then a 30 second sprint with 30 second rest. Then 45 second sprint, 45 second rest. Then 60 second sprint, 60 second rest. Back down (45 seconds, 30 seconds, 15 seconds) to complete ladder.
Workout 2: 6-8 x one minute all-out with two minute recovery between efforts.
Workout 3: Tabata Intervals. Tabata is a workout protocol where you achieve four minutes of intense effort in sprinting, weight lifting or any other maximum effort exercise, using the consistent work/rest ratio of 20 seconds sprint, 10 seconds rest, 20 seconds sprint, 10 seconds rest – repeated for four consecutive minutes.