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Sprinting

Still trying to get to the lingering emails and comments I've not replied to. They will all be handled today as my head is now above water.

Well, I had hoped to maintain or even lose fat on my vacation, but it was not to be. I gained 3 pounds. I ate pretty paleo the whole time, excepting a few sessions with a few corn tortilla chips with salsa and/or guacamole (I usually felt awful for several hours after — I've simply lost my tolerance for them, just as you can build and then lose tolerance for alcohol, nicotine, caffein). Speaking of alcohol, that was another issue, most likely. I consumed it daily in immoderate amounts of spirits over a long period of time (afternoon to late evening), though never enough to become noticeably intoxicated. The other thing is that I didn't fast until beginning the trip home on Sunday, where I had breakfast in Puerto Vallarta, then went trough the process of enjoying the last few hours on the beach, getting to the airport, flying to LA, driving 1 1/2 hours down to Vista, spending the night, then getting up in the morning for the 7 hour drive back home. I finally ate Monday evening and accounting for the two hour time gain on the way back, the fast was just shy of 36 hours.

Traveling is an excellent opportunity to fast.

I also didn't work out in the standard fashion. Instead, I sprinted barefoot on the beach for three sessions during the week. I was impressed with the results, especially when I consider how little time of actual exercise is involved. Once again: high intensity wins the day. Here's what I learned:

  • For the first session, I did two sprints, all out for about 20 seconds each (about as much as I could take). Running on moist and slightly packed beach sand is quite different from running on grass or a paved surface. In each, I exploded off the line with full intensity, and quickly developed quite a tightness / cramping in my quadriceps, especially the left; and in exactly the same way I used to get it in HS playing soccer — a sport that requires explosive bursts. So, the explosive off-the-line bursts limited what I could do that first time. 
  • Also, I was trying to do long strides and I quickly found that a long stride seemed to equal less intensity. Think about it. A sprint is mostly push, little if any pull. If you get your foot way forward, you can't push until the weight of your body gets over the point of pivot. So, more time equals less intensity. I shortened my stride substantially in sessions two and three and got way more intensity out of it, with full-body results that were quite noticeable. I suspect that for world class sprinters, the name of the game is to develop a lot of intensity with a long stride. Of course, part of why they use spiked shoes is to give them the ability to pull with their foot until their body weight going forward gives them the leverage to instantly shift to push.
  • Though I want to be able to develop the ability to explode off the line with full intensity, I let that go for now in sessions two and three. As such, I was able to get in four sprints in each of those sessions instead of two. So, a bit of a tradeoff; no benefit from the initial explosion, but double the sprint time. What I did was begin with a jog and immediately and steadily accelerated to all out, in a time compressed to maybe three seconds, at most. You want to very quickly get to full intensity. So, rather than 1-2 strides to full speed off the line, it was maybe 6-7 strides. 

I was really blown away by the results. I've sprinted now and then in the mornings, walking the dogs, out on a paved surface. However, I never felt any particular result I could identify. This is perhaps because I was doing my two intense sessions at the gym anyway, so it would have been difficult to attribute any results to the sprinting. However, I didn't do any workouts this vacation week and I can definitely say that the sprinting essentially gave me the same feeling, i.e., that wonderful substantial muscle tightness for the next two days, and not just in the legs, but over my entire body. In essence, I felt as though I'd gotten a good workout of my arms, chest, back and shoulders.

Quite amazing. I'm now firmly sold on sprinting as part of my weekly routine.

Later: Having thought about Keith's comment setting me straight on the push/pull issue, I have to conclude he's right. If you watch sprinting, bodies tend to be erect / vertical, so it has to be more of a pull than a push once off the line.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

4 Comments

  1. Keith Norris on February 25, 2009 at 18:11

    Richard,
    Actually, pulling in the sprints is exactly what you want to do. The motive power (if sprinting in proper form) is mostly from the glutes and hams, much less so from the quads. For an example, see if you can find a clip of the men's (women's, too) Olympic 100 meters final from last summer. See how after the initial 10 meters or so, they phase into an erect torso w/a pulling motion from the lead leg. Usain Bolt has this perfected. The "push" (ideally) is only found in the initial few strides off the line, then it's a quick transition into the "pull" phase. "Push" sprinting probably has a good bit to do w/why you're having problems w/the quad — that, and I would suspect, you're tight in the hips (another reason people generally slip into a push run). The cure is to incorporate plenty of hip-extension dominant exercises in your workouts.

  2. Richard Nikoley on February 25, 2009 at 18:43

    Thanks for setting me straight, Keith. (anytime, BTW). I'll see what I can "feel" going forward. One thing I didn't mention is that at 48, you (or me, anyway) have to literally train yourself to run, again. Jogging is one thing, but an all out run is quite another.

    Anyway, I got tremendous benefit even as it was. It's good to know I have lots of room for improvement. I also count as positive that I seemed to be doing better in form with each session. Of course, better form means more available intensity.

    I like to relate a lot of things like this in my mind to flying airplanes (I'm a stick & rudder guy — tail draggers — and hang-gliders, too). It is truly amazing to progress in muscle memory. In most cases, you go significant periods with lots of struggle & no progress, and then huge jumps in progress, like magic. I'm guessing it's gonna be a lot like that for the sprinting, 'cause I'm going to be doing it a lot.

  3. Richard Nikoley on February 26, 2009 at 12:23

    Keith:

    Another thing I thought of is that while the quad "cramps" subsided within hours, the sustained feeling (for days) was a bit in the hammies, and lots in the glutes. Made that 7 hour drive back on Monday slightly unpleasant.

    What do you make of that?

  4. Richard Nikoley on February 27, 2009 at 14:53

    I've posted a correction to the post highlighting Keith's valid point.

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