7 lessons sprinters can teach endurance athletes
Endurance junkies might think they’ve little in common with their fast-twitch counterparts, but here's seven lessons sprinters can can teach endurance athletes.
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Lesson #1: Quality over quantity
Within the endurance community, one of the greatest failings is the common-held belief that more miles equals better performance.
To a degree, miles matter, but the focus tends to be heavily in favour of quantity over quality.
In contrast, it’s easy to envy sprinters. Their training appears so easy: go full gas for a few meters, perhaps 200, then walk and recover for a full five minutes.
Sprinters aren’t lazy, they’re just fully committed to high quality training and won't do anything without purpose. That includes extra miles.
Quality is hugely important for endurance athletes too and junk miles should be avoided. As a rule of thumb, if you don't know the reason or benefit of a session, it’s probably junk.
Lesson #2: Control your mind
In no other arena is pressure pilled heavier than on the shoulders of sprinters. With less than 10 seconds to race, 100m sprinters must control their emotions, handle nerves, retain focus and keep relaxed in an event they’ve targeted for years.
Usain Bolt: a master at combining focus with relaxation
Endurance athletes don’t necessarily handle the same specific conditions but the power of the mind is well understood when it comes to long distance performance.
Whether it’s sticking to pace even when it feels easy or having the strength of mind to dig deep when you want to quit, clarity is important to reach your potential.
Lesson #3: Form matters
Over a sprint, poor form is the difference between first and last yet endurance junkies often neglect form. But if you take a look at the closing stages of any endurance event, you’ll see that’s not the case.
What causes runners to slow? It’s not their lack of aerobic capacity. It’s their failing form. They can’t stand up straight; they can’t lift their feet; their muscles are shutting down.
Of course, over long distances form will always deteriorate – that’s part of the challenge of endurance events – but developing good form will delay the point at which this occurs, meaning you can run better for longer.
You might feel like a nitwit doing them, but drills such as high knees, crossovers, skipping and lunges will improve running economy and promote optimal movement patterns.
Sprinters are powerful, yet they seem to float along the track
Also, note that world class marathon runner’s form closer resembles that of a 100m sprinter than the layman shuffler who’s neglected proper run form.
Lesson #4: Don’t stress your diet too much
There’s a line to be trodden here. At 33 Sports Nutrition, we believe that nutrient-dense foods are best for athletic performance but it’s also clear that athletes can become obsessed over what they’re putting into their bodies.
Eating disorders are particularly prevalent amongst the endurance community but performance, health and longevity – both in sport and life – are a product of balanced nutrition.
That means not stressing it too much.
We’re not advocating you follow Usain Bolt’s Beijing Olympic diet - where he reportedly consumed up to 100 chicken nuggets per day - but it’s clear that finding what works for you is important.
We’re definitely not suggesting fried chicken is performance fuel, but we do advocate balance in your diet
I can’t help but wonder, however, if he’d have run even faster if he wasn’t fuelled on epithelium, bone nerve and connective tissue!
The bottom line is, find what works for you and try to apply balance to it. If you’re eating a wholesome diet focused on natural, unprocessed foods 80% of the time, then don't worry about indulging in the odd piece of cake or piece of chocolate.
Lesson #5: Dynamic warm up
It feels like a waste of precious time, but a dynamic warm up will pay dividends, particularly if you’re about to embark on a hard session.
Replicate sprinters and embrace the butt-kicks, side steps and skipping drills to mobilise and warm the body before asking it to perform.
Lesson #6: Get to the gym
Elite marathon runners lift weights regularly and if you do the right moves for your sport, you’ll improve strength, speed, economy and endurance.
After a gym session, make sure you consume some high-quality, non-processed protein. There are many whole-food protein sources but for a convenient, all-natural fix, mix our Premium Protein with water or milk and you’ll be set to reap maximum gains.
Premium Protein – your perfect gym companion
Lesson #7: Incorporate speed work
Of course, running fast training contributes a large chunk of sprinter’s training, but it should form part of yours too.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re training for Ironman or a 100-mile ultramarathon, endurance athletes are missing a trick if they neglect speedwork. Firing those fast-twitch muscles will:
- Improve economy
- Burn fat
- Improve VO2
- Boost threshold
Lessons sprinters can teach endurance athletes - conclusion
Despite the seemingly large chasm between sprinters and endurance athletes, it’s true there’s things we can learn from our rapid counterparts.
Apply a few of the above lessons and watch your endurance improve.