Fundamentals of sprint running
A sprint is a race over short distances at top speeds. Such a run is called sprinting, and long-distance running is called stayer or marathon running. It has an outstanding power orientation both in terms of bodywork and in terms of biochemical and physiological processes that occur in the runner’s body: during the sprint, the muscles of the entire body of the athlete are mobilized, the work of the ligaments, cardiac and respiratory systems are activated.
Sprint distances are from 30 to 400 meters. Olympic distances are 100, 200, and 400 meters and relay races are 4 × 100 meters and 4 × 400 meters. Running for 60 meters is included in the programs of the World and European Championships. In other competitions, there are non-standard distances – 30, 50, 150, 300, 500 meters and a 4 × 200 meters relay.
Major features of sprinting
Sprinting requires perfect preparation in everything – in technique, in strength, in endurance. Strict coordination of movement, a virtuoso control of your body, and quick orientation in space are needed. Therefore, sprinting is a versatile and long preparation for the sake of a few moments in the race.
Sprint running during competitions, unlike stayer marathons, starts from a low start. This is a special technical subtlety, which is worked out separately in training. The same is with the finish – the “throw” with the chest or shoulder to the finish line, which helps to win a split second, is also trained separately. In general, sprint running is quite technically different from stayer running – a different intensity of work with the hands, a different step width, and leg amplitude along with the “running wheel”.
Key differences between sprinting and stayer running
Sprint running, unlike stayer running, activates anaerobic processes in the body. This requires a heavy emphasis on strength work during training and a high proportion of special and simulated training. Sprinters also do regular running at an even pace, but their volumes are lower compared to marathon runners.
Interestingly, sprint training takes less time than stayer training. Of course, in both cases, the path to the elite and high results will take years. At the same time, a person who has the qualities of a sprinter is more likely to develop the qualities of a stayer with targeted training, while a stayer “by nature” is unlikely to reach sprinting heights.
Sprinters differ from stayers in their physique. They are always strong, both on the legs and in the upper body, the musculature is more pronounced, which is part of the high-speed machine that helps to win short races.
Types of distances in sprinting
There are standard distances that are recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
60 meters. Official races are held in indoor stadiums on a straight section of track; they are not included in the program of the Olympic Games. For this distance, the most important thing is the starting acceleration in the first seconds.
100 meters. It is held at summer outdoor stadiums on a straight section of the track. It’s the oldest athletics distance of a short run and, perhaps, the most prestigious. It’s included in the program of the Olympics.
200 meters. Held at both types of stadiums. This distance cannot be covered by a straight section of the track, so athletes always turn around. It requires more effort and more coordination. It is interesting that athletes often make “doubles” – that is, they set records in the 200-meter race, and at the same time in the hundred-meter race.
400 meters. Held at both types of stadiums. It’s the so-called long sprint and a very difficult distance of a rather narrow specialization because it requires incredible endurance at the utmost power of work. The athlete is faced with the task of correctly distributing his energy over the entire distance.
Relay races. It’s also known as a team sprint. The programs of the World Championships, Europe and the Olympic Games include sprint relay races: 4 × 100 meters in summer and 4 × 400 meters in both summer and winter. IAAF registers world records in 4x100m, 4x200m, 4x400m relays.
Specifics of training process in sprinting
Training in athletics is recommended to start with medium distances and then move on to short ones. In the training season, first, the development of general endurance is performed, then strength, then strength-speed, and then the lead-in period of speed work and technique improvement begins.
When preparing, no one immediately goes into high-speed work. They begin to practice running at an intensity of 50% of the maximum, then at 3/4 of the intensity. It helps to control the technique.
The sequence of training in sprinting technique consists of the following stages according to the main elements of the sprint race itself: running in a straight line, in a turn, low start and starting acceleration, finishing, etc.
Technique is taught by running at a steady pace with moderate intensity; then by running with accelerations, where the speed approaches the maximum. Great importance is given to special preparatory and general developmental exercises.
Main benefits of sprinting for athletes
Preparing for sprint races, like any kind of running, strengthens the heart and lungs, and develops endurance. But the most interesting metamorphoses occur inside the body.
After eight weeks of speed training, the enzymes that are responsible for the breakdown and resynthesis of our versatile and efficient energy source, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) increase. During the work of the muscles, ATP breaks down, and energy is released, which our body uses. And then ATP resynthesis begins followed by continuous recovery.
That is, our body continuously produces a new source of energy. And when training to sprint, you can train your body so that this ATP recovery (and, therefore, a new influx of energy) occurs faster – and this directly affects performance, the quality of work, and the ability to maintain higher physical effort.