How to Improve the Recovery Phase of Sprinting

Increase oxygen uptake and you'll shorten your recovery time between sprints.
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Being a successful sprinter -- whether that means reaching your own modest potential or ascending to the local, regional or national championship level -- requires foot speed. That much is obvious, but what is less intuitive is that to maximize your abilities in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, you also need to develop a modicum of aerobic endurance in order to both train and race most effectively.

The Rationale

The outdoor sprinting events include the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes; at the world-class level, male athletes take about 10, 20 and 45 seconds to complete these, respectively, with women about 10 percent slower. As a result, these events are chiefly anaerobic, meaning they do not rely to a great extent on oxygen utilization. This is only part of the story, however. Many competitions involve multiple heats, or rounds, of the same event spread throughout a day, and most sprinters compete in more than one event. Some degree of endurance is therefore necessary to ensure an athlete remains as fresh as possible until the final round of racing. Also, having better endurance will allow you to train harder and therefore improve your top speed through basic repetition.

Distance Runs

Clyde Hart, the Baylor University sprint coach who has guided multiple athletes to Olympic Gold medals, says that although the sprints are overwhelmingly anaerobic in terms of the energy sources the body draws on during races, it is vital for sprinters to do some aerobic running. This is aimed at improving oxygen uptake, which in turn shortens the recovery time needed between repetitions in a sprint-specific workout. Hart recommends 15- to 45-minute steady-state, or continuous, runs and interval sessions such as six times a half-mile on a cross-country course with three minutes of rest between repetitions.

Speed Endurance Workouts

These highly taxing interval-style workouts address both basic speed and aerobic endurance. According to Hart, repetition distances can range from 100 meters to 600 meters, and the total amount of fast running in a single session should be about two and a half times the target race distance. A 400-meter specialist, therefore, would cover about 1,000 meters total in a session, not including warm-up and cool-down jogging. Sample workouts for this athlete include 6 x 150 meters, 5 x 200 meters and 3 x 350 meters, each with five to 10 minutes of rest between repetitions.

Strength Endurance Workouts

As the name suggests, these workouts, like speed endurance sessions, are aimed at improving endurance, but the approach is from the "strength side" rather than the "speed side." Consequently, the emphasis is not on sprint repetitions on the track, but workouts involving the athlete working against some sort of resistance, be it gravity or some sort of physical restraint. Individual repetitions should be about 10 seconds in duration. Examples include uphill runs of about 60 meters, 10 x 30 meter harness runs and 10 x 10-second fast rope jumps.

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