The most important thing to remember about getting faster is: “In order to improve speed, you must run fast in training.” So, running up and down a track or field at 60-70% of max effort will not make you a faster runner. Research indicates that you must run at 95-100% of max speed to increase sprinting speed. In effect, you need to train your brain to activate and recruit your fast-twitch muscle fibers to move your body quickly. The more muscle fibers you ‘teach’ your brain to recruit, the faster you will be able to accelerate. But in order to train at high intensity, you must be fresh and well rested before each workout and between every rep. Some key tips to remember when planning and implementing sprint workouts are presented below:
• Train for the right kind of speed. Most team sports are games of acceleration, starting, stopping and change directions. Train to run fast in game situations. Limit your runs to short distances (5 to 30m) and work on improving your ability to start, stop and change directions.
• Emphasize “quality” for each sprint. Run at 95-100% of max for the entire distance. If you are running at less than 95% of max, you are working on something other than speed. If you don’t run fast, you won’t get faster.
• Don’t jog. If you spend 80% of your time jogging, you are spending 80% of your time practicing to be slow.
• Observe adequate rest and recovery between workouts and sprints. Don’t rush through workouts. Rest at least 90 sec between sprints. Allow adequate time for rest and recovery between workouts. It takes 48 hr for your central nervous system to recover from high intensity sprint training. Don’t do sprint workouts on consecutive days.
• Race against or chase your teammates during sprint drills to motivate yourself to run faster. Competition helps ensure that you give 100% effort.
• Time your runs. You must know how fast you are running to ensure that you are giving enough effort to stimulate improvement.
• Limit the volume of sprint work during workouts. The total volume for sprint workouts should not exceed 300m for team sports athletes (e.g., 10x30m or 3x5x20m). When team sports athletes exceed this volume the neuromuscular system becomes extremely fatigued, the body can’t consistently produce 100% effort, technique breaks down and the risk of injury increases.
Derek Hansen works with athletes in all sports, including the Canadian National Team. To read more from Derek, go to http://www.strengthpowerspeed.com/