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How to Get Faster at Sprinting: Top Tips To Increase Sprinting Speed

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Within the running community, the word sprint has a pretty precise meaning. To run very fast is to sprint. In the world of track and field, sprinting is any race where you are going at 100% and, because of the intensity of the effort, sprints are very short in duration. Watching the Olympic Games nets you some sprinting of epic proportion. 

The question that often remains is what role does sprint play within the workouts of us mere mortals. After all, most of us are no Usain Bolt. However, when you read up on how to improve your running, there is always a common denominator. That common factor is the implementation of speed work

It is true that there are many different facets to speed work. One part of this equation is truly fast efforts for short distances. If you engage in this type of speed work, you, my friends, are sprinting. 

What Is Sprinting?

Sprinting is when you run a short distance at top speed. When you are circling the oval, the most typical sprints are the 100 and 200-meter dashes. Elite runners also “dash” for 400 meters. It bears mention that sprinting exists within other sports. 

how to get faster at running

When you watch a receiver on a football team run out, juke to the left to dodge the defender, then slant to catch a pass… that is sprinting. You also see sprinting in other sports such as soccer. But let’s get back to running. 

When you are involved in a distance race, and you can see the finish line just off in the distance, in the moment when you surge forward, giving every last remaining bit of effort within your body, you are sprinting. 

Sprinting vs. Running

The difference between sprinting and running is in the intensity of the effort. Running can be at a steady and easy effort. It can also be done over a long period of time.

Conversely, sprinting is quick and typically over a short distance and/or period of time. 

Benefits of Sprinting

There are so many reasons to try sprinting, and they can be both physiological and psychological. Just like any other high-intensity interval training (HIIT), sprinting will help you improve your performance.

The top 10 reasons to incorporate sprinting into your workout are:

  1. Builds muscle
  2. Increases strength
  3. More power
  4. Heart health
  5. Improved endurance
  6. Better V02
  7. Explosiveness
  8. Metabolism boost
  9. Release of endorphins
  10. Mental strength

Runner Niall Bowie had this to say about sprinting, “I have recently added sprints and heavier weight training to my weekly routine, and I have felt a positive impact. I do 4 or 5 x 100m sprints, then walk back, and I usually do this at the end of a long run. I have found the sprints getting easier and faster, and I feel more comfortable.”

What Does Sprinting Do To Your Body?

A quick peruse of the list above will give you some ideas of what sprinting does to your body. That’s right. If someone asks you about the health benefits of sprinting, there is quite a list!

First, you will notice an increase in strength and muscle. This type of explosive speed also results in more power. As you work through sprint/speed workouts, that type of HIIT training gives you greater heart health by taxing the cardiovascular system. 

HIIT training such as sprinting is also good for fat burning and weight loss as it gives you a metabolism boost. If you have been following my writing here in RunnerClick, you may have read about getting that Runner’s High everyone talks about. Sure, it is commonly achieved through long-distance runs at a fairly easy pace; however, some people get it by hammering 200 repeats on the track. 

One of the best reasons to do speed work is that the physical challenge builds up your mental strength. Mental toughness will take you far when running either recreationally or competitively.

Runner Karina Saavedra: I add sprints into my warm-up prior to my strength and conditioning sessions; sprints are always less than 20 min training sessions. It makes me feel more energetic for my session even though I’m dying during the sprints!

How to Increase Sprinting Speed

If you want to sprint faster, it is important, as always, to warm up properly. Trying to run fast without warming up can result in injury. Spend time working on your core if you want to get faster because taking care of your power chain is an essential component. 

Don’t forget to pay attention to form in order to get faster. Believe it or not, running “better” can result in inefficiency, which can shave off seconds. When working on form, it is important to remember to keep your shoulders, jaw, and neck relaxed when you sprint. Do not shrug your shoulders and bob or twist your head because this will lock your hips, breaking proper form.

You should also spend time making sure your arms are in the proper position. Keeping arms bent at 65-90 degrees, your arms should have an exaggerated range of motion. Don’t cross or swing your arms across your body. 

proper running form

Learning how to land efficiently is also important: land on your forefoot and pay attention to the force pushed off from your toes in order to propel yourself forward while remembering to keep your feet flexed up toward your shin.

Long strides will waste your energy. Focus on speed rather than distance when you sprint. You will run faster and more efficiently by shortening the stride.

Just like the warm-up is important, the cool down is equally so. In order to prevent injuries, as well as reduce the chances of being in pain later, after every sprinting workout, you should spend a few minutes doing some light exercises such as jogging, or the last 5-10 minutes to stretch your muscles.

So if you are hoping to get faster at sprinting, try those things. Don’t try to master them all a once. Improvements typically happen in baby steps. 

Should Sprints Replace My Long Run?

If you are wondering if it is better to run long distances or sprints, you need to remember that good things happen in moderation. In other words, you can have too much of a good thing. This is true of both sprints and long runs. You can’t simply focus on one or the other if you are trying to improve as an athlete and runner. 

There is room for both types of workouts within the greater context of a training cycle within your week of workouts (and within the greater context of a training cycle). 

How Long is a Sprint?

Most coaches will tell you that a short burst of speed done during a workout is :20-:60 seconds in length. It makes sense, doesn’t it? That matches up nicely with the 100 and 200-meter dashes from our high school track days. When I get athletes ready for races, I usually have them do a pre-meet workout the day before. 

That workout consists of 2-3 easy miles, and then, after mile one, they start doing what I call “pick-ups.” A pick-up is when you run, pick up your pace and run increasingly harder over the course of one minute. That burst of speed has you accelerating until you reach your top speed (or close to it). Then, you decelerate and go back to your easy pace. 

If you are new to sprinting, you might wonder how far you should run. If running on an open road, you could just pick a point ahead of you, like a mailbox or a street sign. Run hard to that point, then recover with either walking or an easy jog. You’re sprinting, and it does not matter how far you went. The effort is what is important. 

Sprinting speeds vary by athlete because we all have our own speed for quick efforts. Just keep in mind that the speed you sprint at is not expected to be something you can hold for a long time. 

how to get fast at sprinting
Photo Credit: Betsy Davis

According to runner Betsy Davis, sprints are vital to survival when doing a Zombie Run. Of course, she metaphorically meant that the zombies are not real and won’t eat your brains if they catch you. The point, however, is well taken. Working on your speed is an excellent way to evade someone!

Davis, “I think for distance runners, sprinting is a great way to increase your overall per-mile speed, and it’s a way of pushing yourself to get better.  You always have to keep pushing in order to improve, and speedwork is a good way to do that.”

Who Should Sprint?

Honestly, incorporating some speed into the weekly workout regiment is good for all of us. Running at the same steady pace all of the time causes an athlete to plateau in his or her running, as well as experiencing less cardiovascular benefits.  

If you are looking for improvement in performance and mental clarity, give it a try. 

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