Fitness and Speed Endurance Training for Sprinters
Here we are going to break the fitness needed for sprinting into two distinct categories, general conditioning and speed endurance.
Firstly, you need to develop your general strength and fitness to be able to move on to more specific sprint training. Having a good base of fitness and strength will help reduce your risk of injury and illness to enable you to train consistently and perform at your best.
Secondly, we'll look at speed endurance, which is the maintenance of a high level of speed over the duration of a race.
General Fitness and Conditioning
This is achieved by a degree of aerobic work, concentrated early in the winter (from about Sept - Nov) for those wishing to compete well during the summer.
Activities such as circuit training and steady running (generally of no more than 3 miles, but at a reasonable speed) are important and generally used by athletes. However, it is also perfectly reasonable to get this sort of fitness from cross training, eg. a game of squash, cycling, a game of football etc, so long as the injury risks associated with these are recognised.
You may also wish to introduce weights sessions to your training programme at this time. The focus of this should be on building strength and working on strengthening your weaknesses in areas that are prone to injury. You can read more about this on our weights training pages.
As mentioned, this work is generally done early in the year, but should be maintained at a lower level throughout the training year.
The key to winning any sprint race - isn't necessarily having great outright speed, although this is obviously very useful! The key is maintaining as near to your top speed as possible throughout the endurance of the race.
No-one can sprint 100% flat out for more than about 20-30m - therefore you need to learn to run at just below top speed for distances longer than this. The key is staying relaxed and avoiding tension in your muscles, whilst still running very fast. Your body will need to be able to produce ATP (put simply, energy!) quickly and continuously for your muscles to use during the sprint. The best way to train your body to do this is develop your speed endurance.
The primary way of practicing speed endurance is simply to run distances of between about 80m and 250m with significant recoveries (at least 4-5 minutes for each 100m just run) and maintain a good speed for the whole run. If you are tying up towards the ends of these runs, concentrate on relaxation and maintaining cadence (it is okay to sacrifice your stride length slightly as you get tired). This type of training will also help your energy systems adapt to produce ATP more quickly so you can stay strong throughout the sprint.
The next way to practice speed endurance is through using "in and outs". These are reps, which are split into alternating sections, where you concentrate on speed and relaxation. The relaxation should not be a decrease in speed, instead a maintenance of speed whilst focusing on running relaxed. The speed part should be a conscious acceleration. A run of 100m is good for this, with 15-20m sections for the speed and relaxation. This is good for advanced runners - it helps to reduce these intervals to about 10m for less experienced athletes.