Tips for Sprint Training

Though I don’t believe that the road to health is paved with incessant high endurance exercise, it doesn’t mean that I “can” cardio entirely either. Just as humans didn’t evolve to eat frosted wheat squares for breakfast, I don’t think three hours on the treadmill (or the hill over yonder) would’ve made much sense to your forefathers and mothers of a different era.

Instead, let’s talk “caveman cardio,” those short bursts of maximum output that caught the dinner or protected the tribe. This kind of cardio—practicing brief spurts of high intensity power and speed—both uses the body the way it was meant to be used and sustains the physical potential required for these activities.

Check out my sprinting on the beach video to see how I go about it. But there’s more than one way to work in a sprint. Here are several “sprint” alternatives that range from old school to everyday.

* Fast paced sports: Go for a pickup game of basketball, or join a soccer or hockey league to get in your sprints for the week. Another family favorite of mine: ultimate Frisbee.

* Rope jumping: I know, you can’t get “Eye of the Tiger” out of your head even thinking about a rope. Download it already and just go with it.

* Speed laps around the rink: For those of you who are landlocked and snowbound these days, hit the ice and fly. Same goes for inline skating on the boardwalk. Just watch out for the rest of us while you’re at it.

* Dancing: I’m not much for T.V., but have you seen the workout those Dancing With the Stars folks get? Surprise your partner with Latin dancing lessons, or just pop in a CD and declare “dance party!” with the kids. (Trust me, they’ll outlast you.)

* Power cycling: Pretend you’re giving Lance a run for his money. I know, but we can dream, can’t we?

* Water sprints: Do some race-worthy laps around the pool, or race your golden retriever to a tennis ball. (You have no chance.)

* Mountain hiking: Nothing gets the blood moving like the challenge of a peak. And the view? I think it even beats my beach. (Did I say that?)

* Everyday sprints for mundane purposes: If you’re up for the run but short on time, try multi-tasking. Run your mail to the nearest drop box, or race to the cleaners for those shirts. It’s fun to keep the neighbors guessing.

Got some new or novel ideas to pass along (mundane multi-tasking or otherwise)? Join the forum and share your thoughts, or hit us up with a comment.

paulaloe Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

The Single Best Stretch

10 Workouts That Don’t Feel Like Workouts

The Real Reason We Don’t Exercise

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About the Author

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.

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25 thoughts on “Tips for Sprint Training”

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  1. Sprinting worked really well for during my initial weight loss. I did the Tabata protocol for about a 2 weeks (a total of 4 sessions perhaps) and I lost at least 3 notches of my belt during that time. I had been doing 30 min elliptical sessions 6 months prior to this and had only lost about 20ish pounds. I’m not sure if it was the placebo affect though.

    I hardly do any form of cardio (other than team sports) any more, but sprints are still a lot of fun every once in a while 🙂

  2. I do the Tabata-style workout on an indoor bike which is a great way to get in a good workout in a short time window. I do, however, want to try some running sprints although I will have to start slowly. Every once in a while, one of my grandkids will challenge me with a race to the car or to a doorway, and I feel VERY stiff and old trying to do this. I was never fast (6 minute mile, 40 minute 10K)but at least I felt fluid in my slowness!!

  3. Dave,

    Watch our for those short no-warmup sprints to the car. Better that you ease into them by warming up a little first, then gradually accelerating until you hit full all-out stride. I know the grand-kids won’t cut you slack there, but the chance of a nagging injury (calf, achilles, plantar fascia, etc)increases when we older folks go from zero to 60 too fast.

  4. Thanks, Mark. Luckily my grandson is pretty slow so I don’t have to work too hard, 🙂 But your point is well taken. One of the things I miss from my running days (besides the post race consumption)is the speedwork I used to do on the track. Even though I needed one of those “slow moving vehicle” triangles attached to my rear end, I enjoyed doing the structured workouts. So I’m going to head to the track and do some–but only after a good warm up!

  5. “Keep the neighbors guessing”!!! LOL! That’s my kind of workout:) Seriously – I love sprints. My new fave way to incorporate them is CrossFit style (or Monkey Bar Gym style). They’re fun and you get to look like an action hero without a movie;)

  6. POSTSCRIPT: Fuggetaboudit! I went to the track yesterday, did a good warm-up, and then did my impression of a big-rig truck trying to start in fifth gear. Sheeesh. I’ll stick to my trusty Lemond Revmaster for interval work–my running days are history. 🙁

  7. I hope just jump-roping is enough, since it’s been waaay to cold to do anything over in Dutchieland lately..

  8. * Power cycling: Pretend you’re giving Lance a run for his money. I know, but we can dream, can’t we?

    That’s my favorite summer work out, he still can’t beat me on the 1k uphill 😀

  9. “Mountain hiking: Nothing gets the blood moving like the challenge of a peak. And the view? I think it even beats my beach. (Did I say that?)”

    Maybe it’s different with a real *mountain* … we only have hills here in the Appalachians, and they are pretty! But I’d trade them for your beach any day. 🙂

  10. Can you give me a tip on how a sprint workout in the pool should look? (I guess this sounds obvious but I’m trying to get this right….)

  11. Mark:
    In the cncept of the Prison workout, is there an cave/indoors sprints day workout alternative, such as mountainers + burpees, threatening the catwith a bath and running around after it, etc.?

  12. I am joining this discussion a bit late…

    My current personal favorite choice for sprint training on a busy, work-packed day (i.e., when I cannot get outside) is sprinting up 6-7 flights of stairs, taking them two at a time, between appointments. It is heart-pounding fun! And one is sure to have privacy since so few people take the stairs.

  13. We are a gaggle of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with useful information to work on. You have performed an impressive process and our whole community will be grateful to you.

  14. Sooooo glad I found this website. It took awhile via “Does sugar have inflammatory properties?” But finding this and committing to yoga again, already feel it happening. Try to sprint with the dog. I walk briskly, then sprint, then walk, then sprint. She’s not sure what’s happening but we both enjoy the fresh air. We’ll be interested in learning more about the caveman version of health.

  15. I love the sprinting, dow walking in the
    park with 40lb sand filled weight vest, but another great workout is housework, when the weather outside is poor. Vacuuming, mopping etc. If you throw yourself into it & do not take a break, you can work up a good sweat. The sprinting teaches you to push through any hard breathing activity!

  16. I’m a newcomer to MDA and appreciate the bounty of information available here. Thanks, Mark!

    I enjoy running and cycling and, until recently, did both in excess as I now understand.

    Besides those mentioned above, my favorite “short sprint” workout is playing with (antagonizing) my dog in the yard. I chase her, she chases me as I rapidly change directions and, once in a while, I fall down and let her catch me. She promptly gives my entire face a thorough “cleaning”.

    Once my children are old enough to run, I expect I’ll do something similar with them (though hopefully involving less of my face being licked).

  17. I find sports are definitely the best way to get in plenty of sprint training. A game of five a side football, for example, is almost constant short sprints. Great exercise, and enjoyable too.

  18. I know there’s not a great deal of “primalness” to it, but I do my sprinting on a C2 rower. Nothing special; once I’m done with my gym workout, I include a Tabata session on the rower before stretching down.

    Wondering what people’s thoughts are on this? I do it this way as opposed to running because I really like it, but I’m wondering if I’m missing out on something (range of motion for one?)

  19. For short sprints with a decent cool down in between, the easiest metric I’ve found is when I’m walking the dog (or the kid in the stroller) to walk a block, sprint a block, walk a block, sprint a block, etc.