In the early days of my youth, I wasn’t very athletic. One day, I was trying out for football and the coach made a comment to another coach “that kid was pretty fast in sprint drills,” of course the comment was directed toward me. That stuck with me and the following year I tried out for the track team and became one of the fastest sprinters in my area at the time. Sprinting was my thing and it became very useful as a physical conditioning tool and out running my bigger brother, who at the time was a city police officer. Long story on that last part, suffice to say he never did catch me.
Over the years, I would bring sprinting into my exercise regimen, finding it to be both endurance enhancing and excellent at building overall body strength. There were low points in my health and sprinting really helped overcome many of those challenges. I can genuinely say that sprinting has been a life-changing aspect of my overall wellness and physical fitness. As I get older, sprinting has indeed shown to be one of my best assets in keeping me in shape with great agility.
Fast forward to current fitness trends and you will find sprinting is back in the spotlight. Sprinting is becoming the go-to exercise for an extensive scope of elite athletes and active people. Research over the last 20 years has really defined the importance and benefits of sprinting.
Not only is sprinting a great way to strengthen the body overall, it promotes up-regulating specific genes at the cellular level within your body. These genetic factors within cells are influenced by sprinting and a few other types of exercises such as jumping (think of Parkour) or metabolic weight training. Physical activity can change your gene expression in your DNA by influencing proteins in those genes. These small changes in your gene expression can have a large impact on your metabolic function, the ability to manage your body weight and remedy inflammatory issues caused by a sedentary lifestyle.
But when it comes to sprinting, is it something everyone can do? The short answer is no. In some cases age, chronic illness and mobility issues can hold you back from the ability to safely sprint. Here are a few options for getting started and a few options for those who should not sprint, but would like an alternative.
Sprinting does not need to be a daily routine. Merely work sprinting into a one day a week or every other week workout schedule. Start by doing a light warm-up jog for 10 minutes. Once you are warmed up, make four to six sprints for roughly eight seconds. It is not about the distance, it’s about a comfortable stride and pace that matches to your physical condition.
Start out at a maximum effort of seventy percent and end with a maximum effort of ninety percent. Pay attention to form and if you are very out of shape, scale back your effort to 50 percent until you feel like you have mastered your form. Sprinting is one of those exercises that can result in strains, sprains, and other injuries.
Another effective way to work sprinting into your weekly workout regimen is during a short three to five mile run. If you are a runner and in good shape, find your comfortable pace then roughly every mile work a 10-second sprint into your run. If you know your running route well, time it with a hill or slight incline. This sprinting method is not for the people who are out of shape or just getting starting with running. For those of you who run on a regular basis, you will be amazed at how adding sprinting into your short distance efforts will make a difference over time to your strength.
Let’s take a look at alternative exercises for people who may not be able to do traditional sprinting.
1. A spin bike can be a low impact way to create short-term high demand interval style exercise effectively. Similar to sprinting, a spin bike can engage your heart and respiratory while forcing your lower body muscle groups to perform in that 70 to 90 percent range. These forced engagements are the triggers which can change your gene expression.
2. Plyometrics. This is an exercise that requires jumping to various heights and levels. Again this is an exercise that forces muscle groups to engage then release quickly. A personal trainer who is certified in this form of exercise is an excellent place to start. Note that plyometrics may be best suited for healthier people who just hate to run or sprint.
3. Fast uphill walks. This form of exercise falls a little short of the effort needed for sprinting, but works well for older people and people with mobility issues. Many people just can’t run due to joint or chronic illness like arthritis. A fast walk uphill certainly can help get you started with a lighter form of an interval or sprint exercise.
4. Sit, stand, repeat. For people who are severely challenged, try a method called sit/stand. This can be a very low impact exercise and a good starting point for building up to a more aggressive form of fast walking or sprinting.
There are many other examples of exercises that can change your overall well being, but sprinting as an exercise can change your health at a genetic level.
There are so many healthy aspects to adding sprint training into your exercise regimen that if you are physically able, you should make every effort to boost your program with sprinting.
Judd Jones is a certified primal health coach and fitness consultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org www.jhanawellness.com.