Sprinting for Fitness and Weight-loss? Absolutely!
Running Fast is One of the Best Ways to Get in Shape
I'm a big fan of walking, jogging, running or any activity that makes you rapidly put one foot in front of the other. After all, it's what we humans are meant to do to get around. Sprinting is the ultimate version of this movement, and a fantastic way to get in shape. It challenges a large group of muscles to work at near maximum output, like weight-lifting, and also conditions the heart and lungs very efficiently.
Sprinting is the best way for athletes (both young and old) to get in shape because it trains the systems that most sports require. Think about it: soccer, hockey, baseball, tennis etc., all tend to involve short bursts of high-speed, not slow, steady output. So why would you jog endless laps in the off-season?
Sprinting can also be an excellent way to lose unwanted pounds fast. You may have heard of the H.I.I.T. (high-intensity interval training) approach to fitness. This idea involves doing very high loads for a short period of time to really tax the body and produce fast results quickly. Sprinting is an ideal candidate for H.I.I.T. workouts. Instead of a 30-60 minute jog, you can get a good warm-up and an entire workout in 15 minutes! All you need is some open space.
One of the additional benefits of H.I.I.T. training (and intense exercise in general) is that it boosts your metabolic output for hours after you are done. This means you are burning calories while doing absolutely nothing! It's a great way to add energy expenditure to your day efficiently, and it will tremendously help any efforts to drop unwanted weight. It will even build muscle in the legs and core!
OK I'm Convinced, Where Should I Do My Sprints?
Having access to a track is great for knowing the exact distance (100 meters etc.), but not necessary. If you are at a park, count out medium-sized steps to get an idea of the distance. Each step is roughly 1 meter. Avoid running on concrete if you are just starting out, as it can be quite hard on the joints. Grass or turf is definitely preferable, but make sure to check your running path for hidden dangers such as holes and molehills. Nothing will put an end to your track career faster than a twisted ankle!
If you are reading this, you are probably in mid-town Toronto. Both Leaside High School and Northern Secondary have good tracks that are publicly accessible. Several of the elementary schools (like Bessborough) have turf that is flat and great to run on. I also use the parks at Trace Manes and Sandy Bruce. Jogging to these locations can be a great warm-up if you don't live too far.
Some Tips on Setting Up a Sprinting Program
If you do decide to start sprinting, be aware that it is not easy! That's why it works so well, of course. Start with a short distance, like 50 meters, and a speed just past mid-paced running. You definitely do not want to kill yourself the first few times out. You need to condition your muscles to take the high-level stress, not to mention sensitive tissues like the Achilles heel and plantar fascia. Your first outing should be no more than 5 sprints. This amount of work may not sound like much, but consider them as near-maximal weight training sets. You will likely be sore after just that much work!
As you get conditioned, you can increase the distance (50m -> 75 m -> 100 m etc.) and the number of repetitions. You can also mix and match. For example, you can do three all-out 50-meter sprints, followed by three 200-meter sprints to work more on conditioning. Or you can have a short-sprint day followed by longer sprints a couple of days later.
The amount of variation you can do is practically infinite, and how you set up your program depends on your goals, capabilities and time. If you are not sure where to start, call me at (416)-528-5463 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and allow my 20 years of fitness experience to get you on the right path!