Why Sprinting Is Essential For Distance Runners

At CHP, we often see distance runners for a variety of injuries including knee pain, plantar fascitis, and hip and lower back pain.

We also see many runners for performance improvement.

There are many things that can be done to help a runner both recover from an injury and positively improve their performance. However, one of the most overlooked pieces of a runner’s training program is sprinting.

Simply put, sprint training teaches the body how to move fast. This is important because the greater speeds that a runner is capable of running, the easier it is to run fast for extended periods of time.

For example, if someone wishes to run a marathon in 4 hours or less, this person needs to average 9:09 minutes per mile. Prior to incorporating sprint training into their routine, this person may have been capable of running 14 mph at maximum speed. After sprint training, this person is now capable of running 15 mph at maximum speed. Due to having a faster maximum speed, running a 9:09 minute mile is now less taxing on the body, therefore requiring less energy to sustain this pace.

Sprinting also helps to improve running technique because it requires a great deal of hip and knee flexion (i.e. action of the legs in front of the body). It can break a runner’s habit of kicking their legs far behind them, which often causes them to reach their leg far out in front of the body at initial foot contact.

Furthermore, when sprinting, the body is generating and absorbing forces that are far greater than what the body experiences when distance running. This prompts the body to adapt and become more resilient of tolerating more stress.

So how do you incorporate sprinting into your training program?

Begin by performing the drills below 2-3 times per week. These drills train the body to generate more force into the ground. The more force you put into the ground, the faster and more efficient you are as a runner!

In the video below, Dr. Alex Immermann is performing all 4 activities.

The first activity is “A Skip”. If skips are a bit too difficult, slow things down and perform “A March” (activity 2). Next, practice snapbacks and stepover drills. Start with 4 sets of each for a 10-meter distance.

Let us know if you have any questions, or would like help in learning how to optimize your training.


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