Sprint a Marathon
As a Personal Trainer in London specialising in male body transformations I am not a fan of long distance running or any other cardiovascular activity that involves staying at one pace for a drawn out period of time as in my opinion there are not many benefits to be had that might not be gained in a more efficient way. However, I do think that running a marathon or a long assault course style run is a great personal challenge to set yourself and if you are doing it for charity then all the better you wonderful wonderful person.
So if the impending London Marathon fever is starting to take hold and you want to tick a 26.2 mile run of your “thing to do before you die” list then make sure you add this secret weapon to your training regime.
Sprint – Marathon training usually consists of lots of long distance running drills over the weeks leading up to the big event because you, quite obviously, need to get your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system ready for hours of constant tension and impact. One thing that most marathon trainees tend to miss out of their training schedule is the need for speed and the benefits that a sprint trained body can bring to the long distance circuit.
The reason for missing it out is usually injury concerns, but, like almost everything, when done correctly the injury risk is relatively low in comparison to the available benefits.
One of the most important benefits is in terms of muscle fiber recruitment. Sprinting is one of the only ways in which a distance runner is going to recruit a very large amount of his harder to recruit fast twitch fibers and in learning how to recruit these muscle fibers, you are increasing the recruitable fiber pool. Having those fibers available to jump in and do some of the work when those slow twitch fibers are being overwhelmed will help an athlete sustain his pace for slightly longer and will have you set to blow away the competition when it comes to the final sprint finish.
“It’s interesting to note that Ethiopians are famous for sitting behind their rivals in races – at least on the track – and outsprinting them at the end. Paula Radcliffe knows this only too well.” Adharanand Finn – The Guardian, 10/05/2010
Secondly, a distance runner rarely stresses his Central Nervous System (CNS) to such a high degree in such a short term. Since, everything begins and ends in the brain and CNS, doing some work to deal with a high stress on the CNS could help with overall fatigue and how you cope with it.
Lastly, for the sake of your physique you must not base your training purely on long steady state runs as that will slowly destroy your posture and all of that heel to tarmac impact really grinds down the joins of the hip and knee. As sprinting is more anaerobic it will more efficiently burn fat and the increased power output will directly strengthen the whole body to provide a very anabolic environment for maintaining/building muscle. Aerobic training such as marathon running is more catabolic as the extended nature of the activity leads to muscle inevitably being broken down to fuel the run.
How do I incorporate sprinting into my marathon training regime?
Try using these three speed based drills to give your training a turbo boost and add a little change of direction:
These are simple and are done after a normal distance run. Preferably on a track, artificial turf field, or grass (but you can do them anywhere apart from a treadmill), the entire stride is about 100 meters. Start running at a normal pace and accelerate into a full sprint right before the halfway point. Hold your sprint for about 20 meters, then slow down to a walk. Take about a minute of walking recovery (these should not be hard) and start your next one. Try starting with 4 sprints and gradually up it to 8-10 as you see your speed endurance improve.
Bonus: Do your sprints barefoot to get the whole foot working but be sure to start slow as the differing support will be a shock at first.
Fartlek Training Sprints
These are super simple and are done during the last 10-15 minutes of your run. They can last anywhere from 15 – 30 seconds depending on your fitness level and how hard you want to make them. Decide when you want to sprint and then go for it slowing as you feel you speed dropping off and carry on running at your normal distance run pace for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then start your next one.
A good starting point is 4-6 bursts and build up to a max of 10 as you improve.
Bonus: On a hilly route, use the uphill sections as your sprinting parts.
Hill sprints are the fastest of all these sprint workouts. Find the steepest hill you can and start with 1 or 2 sprints of 10 seconds long. These are done at 100%, maximum effort – think being chased by rabid dogs.
After 4-5 days, you’re ready to start your next session. Add 1-2 repetitions until you reach 8-10 hill sprints, then you can start increasing their length from 10 seconds to 12 or 15. Take a full 1-2 minutes of walking recovery between each one and always err on the side of too much rest.
So give sprinting a try and watch your overall performance as well as your body composition step up to warp factor 9!
If you aren’t looking to run a long distance race then you should still be sprinting for aesthetic reasons. Have a look at this article on getting a ripped physique for more information as it is simple as well as very effective.