Running for Fitness – Should You Sprint?

“Running: a means of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot. It is simply defined in athletics terms as a gait in which at regular points during the running cycle both feet are off the ground.”
From Wikipedia

A long-winded way to describe something that we all enjoyed doing as children and along with walking one of the best and most natural methods of exercise known to man.

Speed and distance may vary and range from a slow jog to a full out sprint. Many individuals compete in events that place participants in a contest to test speed in a sprint or endurance in a distance race like the marathon. The running mechanics may seem to be the same, but there are differences in running mechanics and additional factors which make a marathon very different to a sprint.

Sprints commonly are tested in track events including 100 m, 200 m or 400 m races. World-class athletes may finish these events in ten seconds, twenty seconds or forty-five seconds, respectively. A marathon is a race that’s 26.2 miles in length with world-class athletes completing the race in just over 2 hours.

Sprinting isn’t simply a faster version of running, and running is not simply a slowed down sprint. They are in fact different disciplines altogether. Sprinting calls for the athlete to learn and use a very different technique and uses different muscle fibres. Consequently, sprint workouts must be specifically tailored to train the muscles involved and the energy systems in a unique way. And similarly, unique methods need to be applied to training for a distance event.

The marathon, at a distance over 26.2 miles, is among the most respected athletic accomplishments available to the general public. Anyone with some training may line up in the same event as the best distance runners in the world. This is unique to the marathon as it is unlikely that the average fitness enthusiast would ever get the chance to run in the same race as Usane Bolt.

Training for and completing a marathon calls for considerable cardiovascular fitness and determination. Everyone, from the novice training for his or her first run to Olympic athletes, can learn to run faster and more efficiently.

When you’re beginning, the gains in speed are fairly easy to accomplish by simply improving your fitness levels. As you become a better runner, however, to make further improvements you have to commit some of your time to build strength and speed in order to become a faster runner.

Whether your goal is to set a new personal best in your next 5k race, win your age bracket at an upcoming charity run or qualify for a state or national championship, with a properly structured training program you can learn to run faster.

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2 comments on “Running for Fitness – Should You Sprint?
  1. Kari says:

    I’m a fan of this article. I must admit that I clicked on it expecting something different. I am pleasantly surprised to learn that their is a difference between sprinting and running. I, up until now really thought sprinting was a fast version of running. I’m curious to learn a little bit more about that. Specifically, what different training techniques are there between running and sprinting?

    I ultimately clicked on this article because I was curious about what your thoughts are on people saying that running is more harmful to your body than walking. No I am not 80 years old. I am only 28 but I do have problems with my shines and knees when I run.

    • admin says:

      Hi Kari, You are right in assuming that the training techniques for the two are somewhat different. You are also correct that sprinting is a fast version running. But the mechanics of jogging or distance running and sprinting are very different and the energy pathways and muscle fibre dominance are also different. So apart from obviously jogging to improve your distance running and sprinting to improve your sprints, the fact that sprinting is a fast twitch muscle fibre activity, means that Strength and power training can vastly improve sprint speed.

      As for your second question, because of the greater impact on your joints running can be potentially more damaging then walking. But the degree of potential damage would depend on the surface you are running on, the type of footwear, your technique, the progression of your intensity or duration and a number of other factors.

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