Speed Week — Sprint

HPW ELITE 800m man, Nathan Fleck, always enjoys a quality sprint session. 

HPW ELITE 800m man, Nathan Fleck, always enjoys a quality sprint session. 

Fred Wilt in his book Run Run Run in 1964 defined sprinting as the following:

To sprint means to run at full speed. Sprinting is running at maximum possible speed. Since sprinting involves running at maximum speed, there can be no such phenomenon as an "easy sprint." 

Wilt is crystal clear and correct. Strides are not sprints. A two hundred meter rep at 800m pace is not a sprint. Only an effort ran at full speed, an athlete's maximum speed, counts. 

Full speed running is intense and should be handled with care, but I believe it to be a worthwhile ingredient of any runner's diet. Typically, my athletes sprint once a week. This practice has made them faster.

I employ short (60 to 80m, or ~10") , medium (90 to 110m, or ~15"), and long sprints (150m, or ~20") in the programs I write. Most times 2 - 6 sprints total in a session, always of the highest quality, and no junk. That means ample rest must be taken. The work suffers in sprinting if the rest is rushed. Don't be tempted. Three to 8 minutes of rest between sprints is an intelligent window. However, I always leave it up to the athlete to take the time they need after each sprint without any pressure from me to hurry.

With younger athletes, or those newer to sprinting, I opt for mostly a menu of short sprints. As competency increases, so does the duration of the sprints assigned, but remember the "Highest Quality, No Junk Rule," sprinting for longer distances doesn't always equal better sprints and more return. Instead, a prudent application of the "Goldilocks Rule" applies best, aim for just right, or even just less, never too much — disobeying this principle is a fatal flaw many distance runners make when sprinting. 

Avoid doing too much at all costs. It is important. Do simply what is necessary and no more. And what is simple and necessary for any competitor looking to increase their speed is to sprint, at full speed, not "easy."


Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm 

Jonathan Marcus