Every month, thousands of people google search for how to run faster and longer without getting tired. In the context of sprinting workouts, this makes sense because running faster and maintaining one’s speed is critical for performing well in all sprint events. Here we will discuss a few ways that you can train to run faster and longer without getting tired.
Building A Base
The first step in your journey of running faster and longer is to build a proper base in your sprint training program. For a sprinter, this will come in 3 forms:
- Building an anaerobic base of sprint capacity.
- Building an aerobic base through easier, longer tempo runs.
- Building a base of strength with proper strength training.
Anaerobic Sprint Capacity
Anaerobic sprint capacity is, at least to me, a quality that is imperative for long term success in the sprints. Typically this is developed through repeated sprints over distances ranging from 20 to 70 meters, performed at a high intensity level, with relatively short rest periods.
The goal with these workouts is to build the energy systems, technical requirements, and specific skills related to sprinting fast over short distances. Before we can expect to run our fastest, we should develop conditioning that is specific to the distances and durations of our chosen event, such as the 60m or 100m dash.
Beginner sprinters can go for something such as 10x30m with 2 minutes rest between each sprint, whereas a more experienced sprinter may work up to 12x60m with 2-4 minutes rest between each repetition. Repetitions can be broken into sets of 2-4 sprints with longer rest between sets, or the workout can be done as one continuous set. For these workouts, make sure that you choose a distance over which you can maintain your technique and speed for the duration of the workout. As such, you should start with shorter distances and build up over time as you progress through your training.
Aerobic Tempo Runs
While anaerobic energy systems are most specific and important for short sprint events, aerobic and cardiovascular fitness is quite important for sprint athletes. For one, having a healthy aerobic system is important for overall health. Second, aerobic development can help improve your recovery between more intense sprints, making your specific, high-intensity sprint sessions better. Third, these runs help build ankle stiffness and the skill of running, but at a much lower intensity that our more specific sprint sessions.
Depending on your event, tempo runs can be as short as 90 meters or as long as 500 meters. Each run should be performed at an intensity between 50 and 80 percent, with rest periods kept short such as 1 to 3 minutes. The goal with these workouts is not to run fast, but rather to run consistently throughout the entire workout. If you slow down significantly through the workout, you likely went too fast on the earlier reps.
By running relatively slow once or twice per week, you can work on general qualities related to running without adding too much stress to your central nervous system. This work will also help set you up to better progress into more specific forms of long sprint endurance, so tempo runs should be performed early in your training year to set you up for proper progressions.
A Base Of Strength
Strength training is another form of training which will help you in your journey to running faster for longer. Properly applied strength training can help improve your ability to produce force, while also helping make you more resilient against injury.
In sprinting, our ability to produce force will dictate how well we can sprint. While the quality of force application most specific to sprinting can only be developed through sprinting, our ceiling of force production ability can be raised through various forms of strength training. Getting stronger in squats, power cleans, step ups, sprint sled pulls, Romanian deadlifts, seated calf raises, and other exercises can help raise this ceiling of force production capability.
Additionally, getting stronger will help prevent injury. By increasing the ability for muscles to endure tension, improving bone density, and improving intramuscular coordination, strength training acts as an insurance plan against injury. Just make sure that you do not go crazy with 99% grinding lifts, as these can be very fatiguing and can increase your risk for injury. With strength training, stick to the concept of stimulating but not annihilating your body.
Intensifying Your Sprint Training
Once a proper base has been built through these previously described forms of training, your sprint training and strength training should intensify over time. Rest periods will increase, intensity levels will increase, and the overall central nervous system stress will also rise.
To intensify our training we will use forms of training such as:
- Maximal acceleration and speed development workouts.
- Speed Endurance and Special Endurance Training
- Reactive strength development workouts.
Maximal Acceleration Training
Once you have built up some training volume in previous phases and acquainted your body with the demands of sprinting, sprinting workouts should be intensified in an effort to improve performance through enhanced acceleration and maximal velocity sprinting abilities.
Maximal effort acceleration training consists of sprints ranging from 10 to 40 meters, performed at maximal or near-maximal intensities, with rest periods long enough to recover well and maintain sprint quality throughout the workout.
Acceleration workouts will improve one's ability to accelerate toward higher top speeds, and to do so efficiently. If we work too hard during acceleration due to poor mechanics, our ability to run faster for longer will be inhibited. We need to accelerate maximally to run as fast as possible, but there needs to be an aspect of mental relaxation and a proper progression of rhythm, stride length, and stride frequency.
By performing maximal effort accelerations, we can develop the specific qualities needed to start off our sprints in a good manner, including both the energy systems and the technical movement patterns sprinters need.
Speed Development Training
The key to running faster is developing maximal velocity sprinting abilities. An athlete who can accelerate well but does not have a stellar maximal velocity will struggle to win races and set personal bests. Similarly, an athlete with great endurance but poor top speed will not be prepared for running fast in the short sprints.
To develop top speed, athletes should perform low volumes of maximal effort sprints ranging from 35 to 60 meters, with full recoveries between sprints. During these workouts, the quality of the sprints needs to be prioritized over anything else. If you do too many sprints or do not rest long enough, you will not be in a good place to stimulate improvements in maximal velocity sprinting.
Workouts can be performed as flying sprints, where you accelerate smoothly into a zone of maximal velocity sprinting, or as flat out sprints from a standing or crouched start. Less experienced athletes can start with 10 meter flying sprints, whereas more advanced athletes can go to 30 meter flys or flat out 50 to 70 meter sprints. Rest times can range from 6 to 15 minutes depending on the athlete and the workout, in order to facilitate maximal efforts during the sprints.
Once you sense that you will not be able to keep sprinting at your fastest speeds, it is important to move on to another part of the training session or to shut down the session completely. Maximal velocity is a very hard quality to develop, and as such it is important that we do not induce excessive fatigue during these sessions. We instead want to tap into the fastest sprinting speeds we are capable of, and only run sprints that are fast and technically sound.
Over time, your body will learn to move more quickly, to apply more force in short periods of time, and to better coordinate the movement patterns needed for top speed sprinting. This process can take a long time, so it is important that maximal velocity sprinting is in your sprint training program throughout most of the training year.
Speed Endurance Training & Special Endurance
While speed training will help us run faster, speed endurance training will train our bodies to run faster for longer without getting tired.
Speed endurance is defined as maximal effort sprints over longer distances, with short speed endurance ranging from 60 to 120 meters, and long speed endurance ranging from 120 to 180 meters in length. Special endurance 1 training is defined as sprints from 150 to 300 meters, and special endurance 2 training is sprints from 300 to 600 meters in length.
Similar to speed development workouts, speed endurance & special endurance training workouts should be performed at maximal intensities, with long rests in between sprints to facilitate full recovery. These workouts help improve one’s ability to maintain their speed, minimize deceleration at the end of the sprint, to improve elasticity, and to further intensify training beyond what speed development training can achieve.
60 meter and 100 meter sprint athletes can emphasize short speed endurance more, whereas 200 meter and 400 meter athletes will need more long speed endurance and special endurance training in their sprinting program.
These workouts are crucial for sprinters who want to run faster while also being able to minimize deceleration. All sprint events from the 100 to 400 meter dash have phases of the sprint where the athlete is slowing down. Athletes who can slow down the least tend to have the strongest finishes in their respective sprint events. Because of this, we need to train the technical and physiological aspects related to minimizing deceleration during sprints. By performed speed endurance and special endurance training, we can train our bodies to run faster and longer without getting tired.
Reactive Strength Training
Once general and near-maximal strength abilities have been trained in the gym, it is important to shift more toward reactive strength as your season approaches. Being strong is great, but it can only help us as sprinters if we can use that strength rapidly during the short periods of time in which we are in contact with the ground.
Reactive strength can be trained through exercises with smaller ranges of motion, moderate to lighter loads, and through plyometric activities. If you were performing full squats in your off season, you may progress toward half squats, quarter squats, and low box step ups over time. Squats can also progress from a slower eccentric phase toward a faster eccentric phase, with variations such as drop squats being used. Drop jumps, bounding exercises, banded hops, and pogo hops can also be used to develop reactive strength.
Just as our sprint training progresses on a continuum from slower to faster, shorter to longer, and from shorter to longer rest periods, lifting can progress as well. In the gym, we can move from slower, heavier movements over large ranges of motion to faster movements over smaller ranges of motion with shorter time under tension or shorter ground contact times.
Once reactive strength is well developed, it will help you through enhanced lower leg joint stiffness and rate of force development. If we can generate force more quickly while we sprint, it will be easier to sprint fast and maintain our speed compared to if we were only competent with slower forms of strength training.
Optimizing Your Technique
While training for the physical demands of sprinting is of great importance, you must also consider that perfecting your specific skills and sprinting technique will ultimately allow for you to run your fastest. Getting stronger and improving your physical sprinting abilities will help improve your technique, but you must also be keen to do the work to improve your technique itself.
Inefficient technique can limit your maximal velocity, and will wreak havoc on your ability to minimize deceleration toward the end of the sprint. Someone may be able to power their way to 30 meters, but their technical flaws will begin to show themselves as they reach maximal velocity and are unable to maintain their speeds. If you want to sprint faster for longer, then your technique needs to be adequately developed.
By watching videos of yourself sprinting, you can identify areas of potential improvement. You should check your posture, ground contact mechanics, leg recovery mechanics, as well as your technique at different phases of the sprint. Some athletes are better at acceleration while others are better at top speed or speed endurance phases, so what you need to improve on may be different from me. Watching elite sprinters can help show you common themes of optimal sprinting technique, and may help guide you toward a more productive technical model than if you only watched yourself or your peers sprint.
Make sure that you are sprinting with good posture, that you exhibit an active strike as you swing your leg into the ground, that you avoid overstriding, and that you avoid excessive backside mechanics. When you combine a well conditioned body with a skillful execution of sprinting technique, that is when you will achieve your fastest sprinting times and be able to maintain your speed deeper into the sprint.
Ultimately, anybody can train their body to run faster and longer without getting tired. This requires that we develop the physical qualities and technical skills that allow us to run fast over longer distances. By progressing your training in the manner presented in this video, you too can improve your sprinting times.