Should sprinters run slow in their training at any point? Should sprinters ONLY sprint at maximal effort? Here we discuss this topic from the perspective of a track coach and competitive sprinter.
Different Training Philosophies
Coaches around the world hold a variety of views on what approaches to sprint training are best for developing athletes. Clyde Hart would have his sprinters perform large volumes of lower intensity runs, which led to a lot of success with his 400m dash athletes such as former world record holder Michael Johnson. In contrast, Charlie Francis was known for his promotion of the short-to-long training approach, where acceleration and speed development are emphasized, with distances increasing over time and endurance work limited to 75% effort or lower.
Both training styles have led to the development of world leading, medal winning, world record holding athletes. As such, it would be prudent to look at the common themes of these training methods, as well as to keep an open mind so we can get the most out of our training and avoid any biases we may have which can hold us back.
How I View Sprint Training
Personally, I believe that a short-to-long style of training that includes some longer endurance oriented sprinting is a great way to train for most athletes. In this setup, athletes can develop the specific skills and capacities for sprinting through acceleration and speed development training, while simultaneously developing cardiovascular and aerobic systems of the body to enhance general endurance abilities as well as the ability to recover well between higher intensity sprints.
During the off-season or early pre-season, sprinting workouts can be broken into high and moderate or low intensity training sessions. High intensity sessions are used to develop the specific qualities needed to sprint fast, while the lower intensity sessions are used to develop general fitness and endurance through the use of tempo runs.
An example 3 day microcycle of training may consist of:
- Acceleration Development & Strength Training (95% effort over 20-50m per sprint)
- Tempo Endurance Training (50-75% effort over 100-300m per sprint)
- Off Day or Pool Recovery
As time goes on, both the fast sprints and slow sprints can increase in length. Eventually, the slower sprints can transition into long speed endurance or special endurance training, which are longer sprints performed at 95% effort or higher.
By developing both high and lower intensity qualities in parallel during the earlier parts of the training year, it is easier to transition into these very intense long sprints as the season gets closer.