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Run like a Marathoner, Sprint like a Sprinter

By: Preston Johnson

The holidays are here and for most running may be a little bit less of a priority as we are in the off season for most runners. Time away from races is a good time for you to rekindle that fire you have for running and get back to the basics. A much bigger focus on logging miles as opposed to quality speed work. Before you completely cut speed work from your routine you should consider adding sprints into your weekly training regime.

Whenever you are doing anything this intense always ensure that you have warmed up properly. As you do these sprints (or strides as distance runners commonly refer to them as) focus on running as fast as you can while still feeling good and maintaining good form. This isn’t always a 100% effort, more often than not these will be closer to 90%. Strides should be short in duration, anything near 100 meters is sufficient. Keep the number of repetitions low, 4-8 of them is plenty. Between each stride take as much rest as you feel you need, remember that these are not meant to build endurance, they are meant to build speed so taking a rest long enough to fully recover between each one is encouraged. Here is 5 reasons why you should take the time to incorporate strides into your training.

Injury Prevention

Picking up the pace and adding in some short sprints after a run will decrease the odds of getting injured. We spend so much time running the same pace mile after mile on our distance runs. During distance runs our legs are restricted to a limited range of motion to maintain our running form and often times this range of motion is reflected in our flexibility. Changing things up and allowing our bodies to break that repetitive stride pattern opening up your stride as you sprint will help you stay injury free.

Increased Muscle Recruitment

Each of our muscles stores glycogen (energy) within them. As we run we recruit a certain percentage of our muscle fibers. Obviously, the more fibers we can recruit the more the workload of running is distributed between them. There are certain groups of muscle fibers that are utilized less while distance running as opposed to sprinting. As we sprint we are training these muscle fibers, less commonly used while running slower, to fire more efficiently as we run. Sprinting improves the neurological pathways from our brain to these muscles. Think of the ‘use it or lose it’ principle. If we don’t use these muscle fibers and their corresponding neurological pathways our bodies will allow them to atrophy or get weaker and affect the number of fibers we can utilize while running.

Enhanced Neurological Pathways

Another benefit to adding sprinting into your distance running routine is the improved neurological pathways. We mentioned earlier that this improvement would increase the number of muscle fibers your body could recruit, but aside from that, sprinting enhances our brains ‘timing’ of our neural signaling increasing the coordination between muscle groups. The overall quick nature of sprinting also increases the speed of neural signals along your neurons.


Improved Running Form

In the last paragraph, the idea that sprinting would improve the timing and coordination of neural signals between muscles was mentioned. In simpler terms, this says that sprinting will improve your running form and efficiency. It’s no secret that the more efficient your body is at moving the less energy it will require to carry out a certain task. Implementing sprinting equals more efficient running for your marathon, decreasing the amount of energy each stride requires, and increasing the pace you can sustain over 26.2 miles.


Greater Passive Muscle Elasticity

As you train your raw speed you will develop a greater muscle and tendon elasticity. This creates a spring-like effect in your legs. Similar to a spring rebounding back to its original form when compressed, the increased elasticity in your muscles and tendons will create a faster reaction and rebound to a stimulus. The easiest example to explain this idea is the reactivity that reduces ground contact time due to your calf muscles rebounding from the force exerted by the ground when running.

Sprint like a sprinter and watch as you run right past your marathon PR.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2018 at 11:25 am and is filed under Exercise Physiology, General Running, Injuries and Pain, Training, Training Plans. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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