So I love the current basic fitness recommendation – lift heavy things, sprint occasionally and move often.
But is it really that simple?
Let me state my favorite answer ever…”Yes…But….No….” (You could substitute this with my other favorite answers “It depends” or “Maybe.”)
The reason it isn’t that simple is because many people’s bodies are so de-conditioned from years and years of doing NOTHING.
So while yes…everyone should lift heavy things and sprint, many people need to start out a lot slower than they do.
I’ve said this before, but just because you CAN lift a weight or run really fast doesn’t mean your body is really ready to handle the strain!
Doing too much to quickly will result in injury. Remember…Everything is relative. If your body is de-conditioned, heavy and sprint are very RELATIVE terms.
At the beginning, especially if you haven’t been doing much of anything, MOVE OFTEN is your main priority.
But not only moving often…MOVING WELL.
I know it’s probably getting boring and I’ve been harping on it a lot, but every good program needs to start with MOBILITY and STABILIZATION.
And from there, you must EARN tougher exercises.
You don’t just get to do harder variations and more weight…You have to EARN IT.
There is no better way to motivate yourself than to make yourself want to EARN something more.
So today I want to talk about earning SPRINTING.
More recently I’ve talked more about sprinting because it is one of the few cardiovascular activities that I actually enjoy. And while I think sprinting is great, just like lifting heavy, it isn’t something you just go out and do super intensely your first time.
For one, like lifting, there is actually proper form for running…And let me tell you…there are a lot of people who actually run incorrectly.
Many people don’t run correctly because they stopped doing it when they stopped having gym class in like middle or high school and then didn’t start up again till their mid-twenties.
Many people also don’t run correctly because their body is more used to sitting in a chair hunched over a desk than it is to running or moving around.
When you sit at a desk, your hips are flexed. Your hip flexors can become shortened and tight. Tight hip flexors don’t allow for proper running mechanics. They also don’t allow for proper power generation. If your hip flexors are tight, most likely your glutes won’t be firing on all cylinders.
If you glutes are firing properly, then guess what?
Another muscle will have to compensate to help you run quickly…And that other muscle won’t really be able to handle the load, which means….INJURY!
(Random factoid: Guess what one of the most common running injuries is? HAMSTRING STRAIN! Guess what is tight because you sit all day? YOUR HAMSTRING! Guess what muscle often helps the hip flexors when the glutes don’t fire? YOUR HAMSTRING. Guess what muscle being tight, and even overused because it is compensating, can also lead to knee pain? YOUR HAMSTRING!)
I could go on about the other ways in which your everyday posture hinder you from potentially running properly, but you get the point.
Sitting to sprinting with no preparation means injury.
So the first step if you want to sprint is foam rolling, mobility exercises and activation exercises. Open up those hips and loosen up those adductors. Start activating and strengthening the core. Work on ankle mobility. And get those glutes firing!
Then you need to work on building your aerobic base. Your heart is a muscle too and it also needs to be ready for sprinting! Start with walking. Don’t go 50 miles on the first day. WORK YOUR WAY UP and SLOWLY increase your mileage.
Then if you have done the proper mobility and activation work, start jogging.
JOGGING will be your first step toward sprinting. You can use jogging at a comfortable pace to increase your aerobic capacity and your first “sprints” will be done at a pace that is more like jogging than 100% effort. You must slowly increase your pace as your body adapts!
Also, “sprinting” uphill to start is a great way to prevent common injuries as you work on becoming more mobile. Sprinting uphill prevents you from overstriding, which is a common cause of hamstring strains. Ground reaction forces are also much lower, which means less risk of injury!
As you gain strength, mobility and speed sprinting uphill (and shoot sprinting uphill is freaking super tough!), you may then want to bring your sprints down to a flat surface. Although I must say while sprinting uphill can be a good starting spot, it is freaking super tough even when you don’t sprint all out and should be included even after you have “progressed” to a flat surface.
Make sure that, no matter what you sprint on (flat or hill), you increase your speed slowly and make sure you are warm when you do finally go all out on sprints.
At the beginning, make sure to give yourself adequate rest. You don’t want to push too hard through fatigue at the beginning. Pushing fatigued muscles too hard can result in injury – actually fatigue drives injury rates way way way up in the athletic world.
As you PROGRESS, you can start decreasing rest and upping the volume. While you don’t need to do a million sprints to get the benefit (actually if you are doing a million sprints or feel the need to do that many you are doing something wrong and hindering your progress), you should be able to add on more sprints as you progress.
And last but not least when it comes to sprinting, don’t do it too often. Just like with lifting, you need to give muscles ample time to recover!
Remember even once you’ve EARNED IT, the rule says “sprint occasionally.”
As much as it pains me to say this, “There is such a thing as too much of a good thing!”
Do you sprint? Have you EARNED it?