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

Why We Don’t Sprint Anymore (plus a Primal Health Challenge)

sprint4Last week, I covered a glaring deficit in the lives of most modern people: the lack of walking. And it’s not just the “normal” people who aren’t walking enough; two thirds of those readers who took the poll get fewer than five hours of slow easy movement each week. Since everyone walks at least a few hundred steps a day, people are generally aware – among even the general population – that people just don’t walk anymore. They might not think that’s a true problem, but they’re definitely aware of it. Today, I want to discuss another glaring (in my eyes) deficit in our modern lives: the lack of sprinting.

At first glance, this might seem ludicrous. Sprinting? Sure, it’s a cool thing to do, and it’s good for us, but do you really expect everyone to line up at a track and sprint all out for 100 meters? Besides, is sprinting really essential, the way walking is essential? Because let’s face it: running at top speed for 10 to 15 seconds is an unrealistic expectation for most people, especially older folks. Many people just aren’t physically able to do it.

Sprinting isn’t just running really, really fast, though. When I say sprinting, I’m simply talking about intense movement at the highest speed you can safely muster. Sprinting can be running, obviously, or it can be on a bike (and in fact, many of the sprinting studies use cycling). It can even be aqua sprinting, or running in a pool. Some people push the prowler, a weight sled loaded with hundreds of pounds, as their sprinting. They aren’t moving very fast, but they’re trying to – and that’s the key. Are you moving at the fastest, safest possible speed, given your physical limitations and the demands of the environment (weights attached to you, grade of the hill you’re ascending, your bum knee, etc.)? If yes – even if that manifests as an exhausting uphill walk – then you are sprinting.

Last week, I used pedometer-derived, peer-reviewed statistics to support my claim that people don’t walk enough. This week, we’ll have to rely on the power of the anecdote to get my point across. When’s the last time you saw anyone pushing himself to his limit for an all-out sprint? Skinny jean-wearing fixie rider doing 600 meters at a breakneck pace? Early morning jogger doing 70 meter wind sprints? Weekend warrior next door busting out the prowler for some 150-pound 40 yard pushes? Exactly; this type of thing just doesn’t happen in the real world. We don’t have to chase our dinner, nor run from something or someone that has us on the menu. And anyways, being highly demanding and costly, sprinting has always been a relatively rare occurrence. Grok wasn’t sprinting after everything all day, all the time. Such foolishness would get a hominid killed, fast. We barely even walk anywhere anymore, so there’s no way we’re going to be engaging in a difficult, costly, relatively rare behavior from our past on a regular basis (however beneficial it might be). It ain’t peer-reviewed, but oh well.

You know how I like to talk about acute stressors versus chronic stressors? Sprinting is a perfect example, perhaps the single most representative encapsulation of an acute stressor. By definition, a sprint is brief, intense, and efficient. You can’t talk to your buddy when you sprint. You can’t think about the mortgage or mull over the TPS reports you’ve been lagging on at work. You may not even breathe for the duration of a sprint. No – by definition, a sprint is all-encompassing and overpowering, and it commands all of your attention. When you sprint, your musculoskeletal system, nervous system, and cardiovascular system are all “turned on” and on high alert.

Yeah, sprinting is highest-intensity training.

What’s truly remarkable about a sprint workout is that while the sprinting itself is all-consuming and extremely tiring as you’re doing it, this feeling doesn’t linger. You’re not going to feel beat up after some good sprint training. You might be sore in places you weren’t aware existed (because you’re probably working your muscles in a uniquely explosive manner), but you won’t be hobbled. You might feel a bit spent in the legs the next day, but you won’t wake up with an elevated heart rate from pushing too hard the previous day. For me, a sprint session leaves me feeling energized. I don’t exactly have a burning desire to exercise again that day, but I’m not a useless blob, dry-heaving and panting on the floor.

And yet the beneficial effects are pronounced:

Sold yet? You had better be, because we’re doing another poll and week-long Primal health challenge.

How many times in the last 30 days have you run (or cycled, or swam, etc.) as hard as you could for a short period of time? In other words…

How many sprint sessions have you performed in the last month?

View Results

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Primal Health Challenge

Same drill as last week: I want you to sprint once in the next seven days, starting today.

You’ll want to warmup before launching into a sprint, of course. First, do some active dynamic stretching – leg swings, Grok squats, some high knee jumping, walking knee raises, that sort of thing – but keep it to just one or two sets per stretch, with 14 reps per set; a recent study found that while such stretching improved sprint performance, three sets were too many and actually reduced performance and induced fatigue. Then, do three to four runs (or cycling, etc.) at 60, 70, 80, and 90% intensity to prepare for the sprints.

Shoot for eight to ten sprinting efforts. If you can’t do eight do as many as you can. I’m partial to running sprints (especially hills, which are easier on the joints), but those aren’t necessary. Cycling works very well (and a lot of the studies use cycling), as does swimming. Just remember what I said earlier – what matters most is that you’re moving intensely and maximally. Actually, what matters most is that you’re moving safely. I don’t want anyone pushing themselves so far they pull a hamstring or break a hip. Be careful and know your limits.

Since we’re talking sprints – maximal, all-out efforts – you’re going to need some rest in between efforts. I like Tabata intervals, but those are a different beast altogether. This time, take one or two minutes in between sprints (or even a smidge more, if you need it) to recover. The longer your sprint, the longer your recovery time. A 100 meter runner or a 30 second cycling sprinter might need three minutes to recover enough to give it his or her all on the next one, while a 40 yard dasher or a 20 second cyclist might need just a minute or two. Take as much time as you need to compose yourself in between efforts.

Well, readers, what do you think? Does that sound reasonable? A single session of eight to ten sprints this week? I know I’m in (I manage to do so just about every week). Are you? Let me know in the comment board. And also let me know how last week’s challenge of logging at least an hour of dedicated low-level aerobic activity each day went. Grok on!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Mark,

    I have been training for the past year in pursuit of a sub-60 second 400 meter dash. Usually my training is 6-8 reps of 200 meters at 70% or a speed day of 6-8 reps of 40-100 meters at 95% intensity.

    Even on days of 6×40, my central nervous system is wiped out for a day afterwards as it is such a full body, all out effort.

    …Tim

    Tim Huntley wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • Does a hour long full court basketball game count?

      Brian wrote on May 8th, 2012
      • My brother would have the same question. He plays bball 3-4 times per week along with heavy lifting.

        It’s working for sure as he has been eating mostly Paleo.

        I say going all out for a few minutes and then resting is very similar to sprinting. Do whatever you want.

        For this challenge you may want to just literally go all out with breaks.

        Primal Toad wrote on May 8th, 2012
        • I have similar question, I want to take up tennis this winter, I wonder if that would be an activity that would count as a sprint?

          Heather wrote on May 8th, 2012
      • Yes! Basketball is a classic sport (along with soccer, Ultimate frisbee, racquetball, etc) that combines a moderate jog, with some sustained running, and then (imagine chasing down the antelope) the final kill (err, layup, TD pass, cross goal/bend it like Beckem). Hah!, if it doesn’t remind you of the hunt, it just ain’t Paleo.

        Seriously though. I was just having this conversation with the wife explaining that the human body ~responds~ to these bursts of HIITS. I don’t care whatever ‘sport’ or what some guru calls it – the human body responds to it at the genetic level. Read the Gabriel Method, where he does biking while visualizing being chased by a predator. Personally I visualize chasing the prey ;-)

        RobG wrote on May 8th, 2012
        • LOL I am laughing because I HAVE biked while being chased by a predator… a snarling snapping black lab! Yes I was in a full-out bike sprint! Uphill, too!

          Lora wrote on May 8th, 2012
        • Haha, me too , but it was a Dalmatian… I hadn’t known I could bike that fast!

          Isabel wrote on May 9th, 2012
        • trailside rattlesnakes usually get me up the hill pretty fast on my mtn bike

          DThalman wrote on May 9th, 2012
    • Hey Tim, I’m a 49-second 400 runner, and thought I could offer you some friendly advice if you are interested.

      With the vast majority of sprinters (and especially the older ones), the limiting metabolic pathway is the phosphogen system. In other words, its usually your ability to exert maximum strength or speed that holds you back.

      While 200-meter intervals are useful, you would likely be better served working at shorter distances (70m and under) so that you are training at or above your target pace, and learning sport-specific movement patterns for that speed. An analogy I like considering is this: would a 10k runner train by running 5k intervals? I know you said you do shorter intervals too, so I’m just encouraging that you emphasize those.

      Additionally, heavy strength work would be very beneficial (5 reps and under squat/deadlift variations).

      Finally, form is everything. If you are not working movement-specific drills that challenge your coordination, that’s where you are really going to see improvement to you running. I highly recommend Nicholas Romanov’s POSE method drills.

      Hope that helps, man. I strongly believe that almost any person can run a sub-60 if they approach it right.

      Best of luck :)

      Sprinter wrote on May 29th, 2012
  2. Hard to say, when I run at 2/3 I am probably faster than a lot of people sprinting, does it count? If you can’t run then damned near anything is a sprint.

    rob wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • Depends, are you pushing your heart rate up to at least 80% of mhr or higher? If so, I count it as a sprint. I have a bad knee, so I have to sprint up a steep hill at a slower speed (around 5-1/2 mph), but as long as my heart rate is over 160, it’s a sprint.

      Bev wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • Sprinting is relative to YOUR capabilities; not that of others.

      AlyieCat wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • #humblebrag

      Brad wrote on May 13th, 2012
  3. As there will always be stoplight-to-stoplight stretches that I want to beat, I tend to do, if not all out, 100%-sprints, then at least 85-90% sprints more or less every working day.

    Chalk one up for the skinny-jeans (or in my case, scruffy chinos, fixie rider:-) )

    Fredrik wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • Haha, i’m glad you noticed that too – “skinny jean wearing fixie rider” haha! Although the chinos seemed to be getting tighter these days too.

      Debbie wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • I thought of that too – I think bike commuters sprint a decent amount!

      I did 15 x 100 yd sprints on 2:00 this morning, holding 1:15. Of course, that is too many for them to classify as true sprints I think.

      AlyieCat wrote on May 8th, 2012
  4. I have sprints scheduled tomorrow, so this challenge is timely. I am a lousy runner, so I am just going to jog around the park to warm up, then come to the playing field in the middle and run a as many times as I can for as long as I can at the fastest I can manage without being scared. Is it normal to be scared of the speed at which you are going and wanting to stop because you are afraid to fall down or injure yourself?

    leida wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • I think it can be scary! Especially if you’re not used to the feeling. I expect the more you do it the easier (and less frightening) it becomes. I do what you do sometimes, some “sprints” in a field where I run – I think I might add these in to my runs, i.e. halfway through, wonder what that would do?

      Liz wrote on May 8th, 2012
      • Hi Liz,
        what you’re talking about is similar to what runners call “fartleks” – yeah, it’s funny sounding. You do a warm-up job, then random sprints, then a cool-down jog. Growing up in (very) rural Maine, I used to do lots of fartleks preparing for wrestling season. We had a 3 mile loop (combination of field roads and pavement) that I would run: 1 mile steady jog, then do poles – sprint, all out, for 1 or 2 telephone poles, then walk for 1 pole, then sprint another 1 or 2 poles, etc – that was the second mile. Then jog in the 3rd mile.

        Dave wrote on May 8th, 2012
        • Fartlek. It’s a Swedish word. Actually it is two words:
          Fart:) = Speed
          Lek = Play (game)
          So what you’re doing when doing Fartlek is Speed Playing…

          Johan wrote on May 9th, 2012
    • I don’t know if it is normal – but I get scared too, and I am NOT fast at all. I usually try to do my sprints on a slight uphill as it isn’t as scary that way. (Also easier on the joints, as Mark mentioned)

      Katie wrote on May 8th, 2012
  5. I don’t trust my legs enough to sprint on land anymore. But I do water sprints weekly. My instructor said everyone can sprint. If you use a walker and normally go 0.5 mph, then going 0.75 mph may be your sprint. There is no excuse. You can sprint! (Some medical conditions might preclude, of course.)

    Harry Mossman wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • I have that book PACE by I think Dr. Al Sears (I know of several Dr. Searses and can hardly keep them all straight), and he speaks of having a patient who could barely make it down her front walk–but she did that for her HIIT sprints anyway, and gradually improved her endurance.

      Dana wrote on May 12th, 2012
  6. Those of us who live in cities and don’t rely on cars sprint all the time. In addition to a weekly sprint workout, I am sprinting for public transportation almost every day.

    If you take public transportation you are always booking it to make your transfer or catch that bus/train/ferry when you’re running late– or they are. It’s not always far, but add in a few flights of stairs and it’s enough to get you winded.

    When I lived in Boston, I didn’t even leave the apartment until I heard the bus and then I ran 200m to the corner hoping there would be enough traffic to slow the bus down. Now that I commute by bike in Berlin, I’m always racing to make traffic lights. I think in a strange way urban living may bring us closer to primal movement than living in the suburbs.

    Rubadub wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • So true! When I was commuting, I would dash to the bus a lot. And I consider traffic lights that are about to turn red a personal challenge. :-)

      Sharon wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • Running for a bus is *NOT* what Mark is talking about here. Sprinting as defined here is an *all out* effort involving every ounce of your willpower.

      JohnC wrote on May 8th, 2012
      • JohnC,

        That’s exactly what I’m talking about. For the chronically late, running with every ounce of willpower is a matter of course.

        Rubadub wrote on May 8th, 2012
      • When I sprint for the bus it *IS* all-out!! Kudos Rubadub!

        Joe wrote on May 8th, 2012
        • Mark,

          It sounds like you’ll need to do a follow-up article on “metro sprinting”.

          Maybe some tips or how-to’s on weighted sprints while carrying purses, laptops, briefcases, or backpacks?

          Matthew Caton wrote on May 8th, 2012
      • You’ve never run to catch a bus, have you? :P

        Dana wrote on May 12th, 2012
    • I definitely agree! We moved our family out of our house (prison) in the suburbs back to a home in an amazing, diverse neighborhood in a large Midwestern college town (granted, a small and pretty safe city where I know all of my fantastic neighbors). I could write pages on what this has done for myself and my family besides the independence that city living gives my children.

      If you walk everywhere, for everything, you will sprint.

      Whether it’s to keep from being late, to make it to the corner for the crosswalk so we don’t have to wait so long, or just to break things up, we sprint everyday.

      mia wrote on May 17th, 2012
  7. Usually, I do sprints on my bicycle, not running. Or, I hike up very steep trails, which isn’t a true sprint, but it is extremely hard. Sprints on a bicycle happen naturally – pushing up a small hill or racing to get through a traffic light. The steep trails just happen too. I’m not much for running sprints, probably because I’m not much of a runner.

    Sharon wrote on May 8th, 2012
  8. Two words: Cross Fit.

    liberty1776 wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • Cross fit definitely utilizes sprinting, but because many affiliates incorporate sprints or sprint lifting methods into a much larger workout, it becomes and endurance workout. I loved Robb Wolf’s argument for the short met-con. Of course, my comment is entirely dependent on which affiliate you train with.

      Josh wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • Cross fit is way too far into the chronic cardio side of things. Their “chipper” workouts are damaging and unproductive.

      JohnC wrote on May 8th, 2012
      • Haters want to hate. Lovers want to love.

        I love my CrossFit classes.

        Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

        liberty1776 wrote on May 8th, 2012
      • I completely agree. Damaging, yes, and most Crossfitters are over-trained, and they don’t know it. HIT is not an everyday a week event.

        Notice that Mark requested that people sprint once every seven days, not 5 times a week.

        I would even say that Crossfit is the new “chronic cardio”… and just like chronic cardio it yields sub-par results.

        I work out twice a week for 30 minutes, totaling an hour a week, and my physique would put most Crossfitter’s to shame.

        Brief training, REST, and smart nutrition are far more important to a good physique, and your health, than running yourself into the ground on your weekdays.

        Matthew Caton wrote on May 8th, 2012
        • Crossfitters would say (right or wrong) that appearance should be secondary to functionality. Overtraining is a totally legit concern, but plenty of Crossfitters have gotten better than “sub par” results

          Brad wrote on May 13th, 2012
        • Crossfit IS about more than physique, although many people who are decent at it have low body fat and high muscle %. (I am 7% BF with a BMI of 26.4 – I am not nerotic, just got a free body scan the other day, ha ha)

          Many dog Crossfit – to each their own. I know that it works if done correctly. I know that it is fun BUT there are risks of overtraining as has been said.

          Jay wrote on May 16th, 2012
  9. I prefer the Tabata sprints but just did a 8-10 circuit sprint trail run yesterday. There may have been a mountain lion chasing me or so I thought….

    MadMav wrote on May 8th, 2012
  10. I competitively run the 800m and I actually use sprinting as the majority of my training. I typically sprint twice a week, using both short and long sprints. Long being 400 or 200 repeats and short being 100 repeats with more rest. The longer rest time is important on my 100 days because it ensures that I’m getting the most out of my sprints. My long sprint days turn into a type of endurance workout, which I see as useful for what I’m doing.

    Josh wrote on May 8th, 2012
  11. saturday morning I do sprint work @ the local track. i love it.

    I feel bad for the chornic cardio shufflers as they look at me [w/ sometimes this deep pain and suffering in thier eyes] when I zoom by.

    thanks for the stoke post, mark!

    Nic.A wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • Sprinters seem to smile more than people enduring long distances…

      Primal Texas wrote on May 8th, 2012
      • SO TRUE! I definitely smile when I’m “resting” between sprints. Could it be the “runner’s high?”

        Paul wrote on May 8th, 2012
        • Regarding smiling and enjoyment, read this http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21360405

          Also, although there are many ways to be fit, CrossFit is definitely my chosen method and will always be. Function before form. Anyone using any method can overtrain. If average joe is trying to knockout CrossFit Mainsite WODs without scaling and/or modifying, he is misinformed and needs to get to a good CF box quick. Haters will always be haters. Unless you’ve done the workouts and experienced the results (good, bad or indifferent) don’t knock it.

          Nick wrote on May 15th, 2012
  12. Love interval sprints for a fast,high intensity workout that really helps with weight loss. Unfortunately, plantar fasciitis is now a minor problem. But thanks for reminding me that sprints on a bike count! I’ll do that until the feet feel better.

    Steve wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • I feel your pain: past August I run sprints on the beach and got the PF, really bad. I did everything (including wearing the night splint), but yesterday I did what I should have done after the first month of pain: I got the cortisone shot. Will give it some more days (maybe two weeks) and back to my park sprints!
      Meanwhile I replaced the sprints with grok crawls (sets of 100 meters, rest, repeat), 15 minutes. I find them equivalent to the sprint in the effect they have in me (panting like crazy, heart rate at 95, 100%).
      I will continue using the night splint and doing the stretching exercises, I don’t need anymore of this PF thing

      WildGrok wrote on May 8th, 2012
      • People suffering from plantar fasciitis have found relief with rolling a tennis ball under their feet. Keep applying more pressure and try to work your way up to a lacrosse ball. Don’t roll directly underneath the heel, but just up to the that point. In my opinion this is the best way to treat this, but I am not a doctor.

        Matthew Caton wrote on May 8th, 2012
      • I have had PF so often that it has really caused a problem every time I try to ease into exercise. I would like to caution the use of the cortisone shot though. Trust me on this one, it is a vicious cycle and in the long run, doesn’t help as much as you’d think. My body got all kinds of messed up after 2 shots and I haven’t been the same since.

        The only relief from PF I’ve had is Graston therapy (google it). It hurts like Hades, but works IMMEDIATELY. Problem solved for me. Hope that helps!

        Katie B wrote on May 8th, 2012
        • I’ll second that. My husband is a chiro who does Graston and active release. Generally, he gets people better in one-three treatments and his athletes LOVE him because of how effective it is compared to so many other things. Cortisone might make people feel a bit better but doesn’t fix the underlying problem. In the end, those who use it tend to feel worse.

          Decaf Debi wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • Jenna wrote on May 8th, 2012
  13. I am coming off a 7 year stretch of chronic fatigue, no fun. So I am working my way into everything. Yesterday I tackled my neighborhood hill and climbed it 3 times as fast as I could. It’s a big hill and the trail is steep, so climbing it takes 3-4 minutes at about 4 mph. It’s a start, right? My goal is to do that every week and keep increasing the number of times I go up. Thanks for the challenge! My big goal is to get out of the fatigue hole, and this site is helping me.

    Maureen wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • Great job!! I too am coming out of a (slightly shorter) bout of fatigue and it’s been so much fun getting my childhood energy back lately!

      Liz wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • D-Ribose has been proven to be effective for those with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17109576

      According to this study, participants saw an increase in energy of 45%

      Matthew Caton wrote on May 8th, 2012
      • Thanks for the tip. I am away this weekend at a funeral and brought some D-Ribose with me to support my energy. Normally traveling totally wears me out.

        Maureen wrote on May 12th, 2012
  14. Bike Racing=sprints of 2-30 seconds every few minutes over 4+ hours. I think at that point it is probably too much of a stressor for health.

    Jordano wrote on May 8th, 2012
  15. I am in! My primal doc told me I need to gain 15-20 pounds and suggested sprints and lifting heavy things. I’m still recovering from my first LHT session, but once the soreness wears off, it’s time to sprint!

    Mike wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • A primal doctor? That’s Awesome! Be ready to eat a ton of meat and sweet potatoes if you’re going to gain 15-20 pounds while sprinting.

      Josh wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • Wow, how did you find a primal doctor?

      mars wrote on May 8th, 2012
      • I went to Mark’s resources page and found a link to the paleo physician’s network: http://paleophysiciansnetwork.com/

        Mike wrote on May 9th, 2012
      • primaldocs.com

        Andy wrote on May 9th, 2012
        • thank you for the links mike and andy!!

          mars wrote on May 9th, 2012
  16. My 3.5 year old daughter seems to sprint everywhere. Off to her bedroom to find a book – it is a sprint. Back to the kitchen for breakfast…sprint. Off to get dressed…sprint. At least at that age, it seems like hard-wiring to me.

    Rand Hagenstein wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • My 11 year old has always found it hard not to zoom around. Makes me glad we homeschool, no one has told me to medicate it out of her.

      Maureen wrote on May 8th, 2012
      • My friends were laughing at me just yesterday because I tend to run everyone (or walk really, really fast). So even when my 5 year old is with me we park our car, then literally run into the store. Not becauce we’re late, but because I can’t stand not to! Hope she is encouraged to keep that up!

        Liz wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • Our 4 1/2-year old loves to sprint everywhere too! We have races in our backyard :)

      I’m a distance runner and I run intervals as part of my regular training. Intervals are not sprints though. I still find sprinting hard but very invigorating. Count me in on this challenge!

      mars wrote on May 8th, 2012
  17. I did sprints yesterday (first time since going primal). Actually, I thought I did sprints a week ago while playing capture the flag with a bunch of 9-year-olds, but now I’m gonna revise that to “pouring on speed.” Man, yesterday’s sprints made my quads sore before I was finished! (maybe I was having muscle spams?) You bet I’m sore today. Did squats this morning on already sore legs and wondered at my sanity. I’m looking forward to all that walk time I need to log.

    BootstrapsOnMyFivefingers wrote on May 8th, 2012
  18. Very timely post! This morning I had to sprint quite a distance to make the last train, else not get to work… to say nothing of the 15lbs backpack I was wearing. I noticed I could only briefly consider how ridiculous I looked to other commuters, but I certainly wasn’t recounting my to-do list for the day. I made it as the doors were closing!

    Marteen wrote on May 8th, 2012
  19. This is why I love sports, in my case hockey. I go out and skate very hard for 1-2 minutes, then sit on the bench for 2 minutes. Rinse/repeat.

    Other sports also allow you to sprint but I find that hockey is great because it is very intense for a very short period of time. Tons of interval!

    Paul wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • Yes, hockey is ideal. I play ball hockey and it’s pretty much exactly what Mark prescribes for sprinting.

      JohnC wrote on May 8th, 2012
  20. Hi Mark. I never tried a session of sprinting only, but I am playing soccer once a week and I give 5-10 full speed sprints during the game. Does it counts? Anyway I started to home-office this week and I will use my new found free time to go out and do some sprints tomorrow. Thanks for the article!

    Juliano Aliberti wrote on May 8th, 2012
  21. I am afraid to sprint because of the effects of exertion migraines. Does anyone know what is going on? I first got one doing sprints at the end of basketball practice when I was young, fit, strong and light. In college it happened every time after the sprint portion of our soccer running practice. Oddly, I’ve noticed that if I have something in my hands when I run, it doesn’t happen. Doing 70 yard dead sprints while reffing soccer with a whistle in my hand and my mind on the play and not the running, never had one. Can someone help? I would love to do some sprinting.

    Joshua wrote on May 8th, 2012
  22. Thanks for such a great summary of the benefits of sprinting!

    John wrote on May 8th, 2012
  23. I’m a soon-to-be 50 (4 weeks) year old All-American sprinter (12 sec 100m).

    I’m SO glad you didn’t give the typical advice about recovery, “go all out for 20-30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, repeat.”

    REAL sprinting takes REAL recovery. If you’re able to recover enough in 30 seconds (after sprinting for 15+ seconds), then you may be running as fast as you can, but you aren’t sprinting.

    And, hey, knock yourself out and keep doing it even if all you’re doing is “running fast.”

    There’s a reason that tens of millions of people run and jog and do 10k and marathons… but only a fraction of that number sprint.

    Steven wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • Steven – your post on sprinting (from almost a year ago) remains the definitive comment. Although many others have posted the benefits of Tabata, of soccer/basketball/softball, of other forms of EXERCISE, none of those compare to actual sprinting – to actually running explosively – for fifteen seconds. As you point out,Tabata doesn’t offer sufficient recovery, and basketball/softball/hockey/etc. don’t give you the opportunity for that maximal effort for 1/4 of a minute. (If you hit an inside-the-park home run in baseball, you cover the distance in 15-18 seconds, but it’s not likely you hit again in two minutes, and less likely you’d have eight such homers in a game. The basketball court is 96-feet in length, so if you ran baseline to baseline you’d probably be running for eight or nine seconds, but again, you don’t do repeats of eight.) You are so correct in encouraging people to keep “running fast” even if they’re not sprinting, but sprinting is something that everyone should get to at least try. I’m 60 yrs. old, play competitive baseball regularly, LHT 2x/wk., get 5 hours of walking done weekly, but the one thing I do that can’t be replaced is the eight fifteen-second sprints with two minutes of rest in between. Nothing replaces that. Thanks again.

      primalmichael wrote on April 28th, 2013
  24. And I’d add HILL SPRINTS. 40 yards, the steepest hill you can find. Sprint up, walk/jog down, rest 10-20 seconds, repeat for 12 minutes.

    GH wrote on May 8th, 2012
  25. There is an interesting commonality between comments on the sprinting post and the walking post: many people rely on their commute to/from work as motivation!

    Maybe that’s evidence that a good way to develop and maintain a habit is to tack it on to something you already have to do. Sounds primal! :-)

    Erica wrote on May 8th, 2012
  26. When the ground outside is covered in snow and ice, I sprint in my basement. All-out running in place alternated with all-out jumping jacks.

    caLORIes wrote on May 8th, 2012
  27. Can you explain this sentence: “Then, do three to four runs (or cycling, etc.) at 60, 70, 80, and 90% intensity to prepare for the sprints.”

    I’ve done sprinting before and have been slacking for a while. I am a 50+ woman who is not in the best shape of her life. I walk a fair amount, but I know these sprints are good for me, even though after the third one, I feel like my lungs are turning inside out. You’ve inspired me to try again.

    Debra wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • We used to do anaerobic sprints during swim workouts at least once a week. Lungs on fire is a great way to describe how it felt. I miss those sprints, now that I think about it. Perhaps I’ll get into the pool this week and give them a try.

      Happycyclegirl wrote on May 8th, 2012
  28. 1. Ran like hell for the bus today — took about 15 seconds.
    2. I would argue Balancing Stick posture in Bikram hot yoga (note: the hot is essential to this argument) is definitely a sprint — and it is two 10-second postures. Your heart races in this psture and you have to give your full physical output and strength to hold it. Since I do Bikram three times a week, that’s technically six sprints.

    It’s the five hours of slow movement I find hard to fit in — that and LHT (but I think I’m doing some LHT in my yopga practice too — just not enugh.)

    Cin wrote on May 8th, 2012
  29. Since reading the Primal Blueprint Fitness book, I’ve added a sprint session into my workouts weekly. I have to say it’s so fun to push myself as hard as I can, and I’ve definitely noticed my endurance has improved as well. I watch people jog on the treadmills for three times as long as I run, but I come out energized when they’re trudging off the machines. Sprinting is so worth it!

    Steph wrote on May 8th, 2012
  30. -Hi Mark! :D

    Jeannie_5 wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • nice to meet you all, what about doing ONE sprint a day of 30-40 seconds? fast running on the spot counts as well?? one fast running on the spot for 30-40 seconds a day..

      Torador wrote on May 13th, 2012
  31. I use a spin bike for my sprints as well as a heart monitor. I used to use the second hand on the clock, but found that was less effective in creating a systematic workout. I set the hear rate monitor to 65% of max for the low and 85% for the high. Then I sprint as long as it takes to exceed the 85%. Then I rest back to the 65%. Then I power up again to over 85% (usually maxing each sprint at 87-88% of max. I do ten of these. The final one, I push as hard as I can until I can’t go anymore, and usually can crank it to about 172 beats per minute, which is a 92-93% of my 185 max rate, typical for a 35 year old, at least according to the heart monitor manual. I am 59. Since I started sprinting on the spin bike, my recovery times have decreased, and I have had to re-set the monitor a couple of times. My legs do feel it, though. I sprint 2-3 times a week, more or less.

    Tim wrote on May 8th, 2012
  32. Mark:
    Since going Primal in January, I’ve adopted the 4 level program in the Primal Blueprint. One day a week I do 10, 30 second sprints on my Nordic Track, allowing my heart rate to return to my normal slow easy walking pace in-between each one. I can get the sprints in 30-40 minutes.

    Dave Nieder wrote on May 8th, 2012
  33. According to UK researchers, two 20-second sprints, three times per week will improve your fitness and insulin sensitivity.

    http://opus.bath.ac.uk/27674/3/Metcalfe_et_al_2011.pdf

    johnny wrote on May 8th, 2012
  34. Sprinting is dangerous. I wear barefoot style shoes everywhere (moc3), learned how to sprint by going barefoot and still pulled muscles on several occasions. Luckily my body is remarkable at healing itself. I would not recommend sprinting to 99% of the population. Dr. Mercola doesn’t recommend sprinting for the same reason.

    If you want to sprint I would say do these things:

    1. Get barefoot shoes and wear them everywhere.
    2. Build the muscles in your feet first.
    3. Sprint barefoot while starting.
    4. Do it on a flat surface.
    5. Do it on a hard surface.
    6. If something feels off, don’t do it.
    7. Give yourself ample recover time.

    guest894735 wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • I agree, most people would be likely to injure themselves w/ “all-out sprinting.”

      Fortunately, we can get most of the benefit of true sprinting – w/ much less danger – simply by hill-climbing:

      1) get yourself a medium sized hill of medium slope
      2) start at the top, walk down at medium speed to warm up
      3)when you get to the bottom, turn around and take a deep breath
      4) go charging up the hill as fast as you can

      Repeat as desired.

      Jeffrey of Troy wrote on May 8th, 2012
    • As a physical therapist, I totally disagree, sprinting itself is not inherently dangerous, it might be your choice of footwear, if you don’t have perfect mechanics, you are overstressing tight or weak muscles once you introduce high level activity. This is the danger of barefoot style shoes, they are NOT for everyone.

      Jennifer wrote on May 8th, 2012
  35. Hey Mark
    Just found a way for me, lover of hoops, to incorporate sprints into a playful workout. I bust out a sprint on the baseline, covering three courts, down and back, and then see how I do for 5 free throws. Right now doing this 5 reps, once a week. A great workout, and fun!

    Tim wrote on May 8th, 2012
  36. Since I had arthroscopic surgery on both knees a couple of years ago (meniscus tears from squatting too deeply, doing gardening in the back yard), I’ve been doing sprint intervals, rather than running 4 miles at a steady pace a couple of times a week. The sprints are much less stressful on my knees than an extended steady pace. Particularly since the acceleration is done slowly, I try to fly over the ground with only front-of-foot impact, and use hard arm swings to help maintain the sprint.
    I run as hard as possible for 30s, then walk for 90s, & repeat, for 2 miles. For longer distances, the times are modified to last the distance; e.g., for 4 miles, e.g., 20s & 2m.
    The ‘sprints’ of course get slower near the end of the whole run, sometimes slowing down to almost a normal running pace!
    I do this only about twice a week, because I have a long recovery time (always have had, but I’m 62 now, also).
    Incidentally, I’ve been eating Primally for a month now, and seem to recover sooner, and ache less, especially on the second day after the session (usually the worst day). Wishful thinking? Maybe; but I’ve also lost 10 pounds since I’ve been on the diet, so who knows.

    BillP wrote on May 8th, 2012
  37. Interesting timing. While driving to work this morning I saw a man doing all out sprints in a church parking lot!

    brian wrote on May 8th, 2012
  38. Regarding: “We don’t have to chase our dinner, nor run from something or someone that has us on the menu.”

    Check this out:
    http://runforyourlives.com/

    Chris wrote on May 8th, 2012
  39. If sprinting, which is technically explosively running, has awesome benefits, then how effective is explosive weight/bodyweight training compared to slow and heavy lifting?

    Michael wrote on May 8th, 2012
  40. I love sprints. I just don’t have the endurance to run for any length of time but my legs can survive running and cycling sprints so that’s my preferred method of exercise. And there is something liberating about all-out running as fast as I can. Makes me feel like a kid again. Never a lack of fruitful information on here Mark. Thanks!!!

    Beth wrote on May 8th, 2012

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