4 Reasons Why Everyone
Should Sprint After Their Run
My 12 year old self would probably have a conniption if I told him that his future self thought running was awesome. He would probably rather me like onions or something.
Seriously though, running is pretty grand. One study shows that for every hour you run, your life span is increased by 7 hours, up to three years. (source).
Looks like I'm going to the park today.
But even though running is awesome, this site is all about how to make stuff even more awesome. A person should never settle for simply being happy; they should set their eyes on being maximally happy.
So how do we maximize the benefits and boosts from running?
In The 4-Hour Body, author Tim Ferriss interviews Greg Glassman, the founder of Crossfit about how Glassman takes couch potatoes and turns them into ultra-marathon runners.
I do say "ultra-marathoners" in the literal sense, as the type of training that Glassman performs is for people willing to run over 100 miles at a time.
And yet of the myriad of ways that a person can be trained to run a marathon (and contrary to popular opinions on how to train for marathons), Glassman does not tell his students to run a long ways a lot.
He tells them to do sprints.
And if sprints work for the greatest runners on the face of the earth, they should definitely be utilized to maximize both our fitness and our enjoyment while running.
Here are some reasons you should add a sprint to the end of your run.
The Frustrating Trick To Get Half An Hour Of Exercise In 2 Minutes
As life has continually grown more stressful, running has repeatedly been an area of release for me. It is a precious time when I am able to zone out for a little bit and running has been absolutely instrumental in problem solving for me. When I am continually putting one foot in front of the other, there is something serene and unique that happens in the mind; clarity strikes.
I enjoy running so much that if research said runners were more likely to grow an extra foot, I'd probably keep doing it.
Thankfully, the research suggests quite the opposite.
But we're only maximizing happiness if we ask the question of what makes our time, including our exercises, most efficient while staying most enjoyable.
Personally, I'm a believer that jogging isn't quite as useful as sprinting, even when training for extremely long distance runs.
My suspicion that sprinting was better overall began as a child while watching the Olympics.
Sprinters were rippling with muscle from top to bottom; their calves, thighs, even their shoulders and arms looked like something out of a fitness magazine.
Distance runners looked more like a sack of running bones.
As mentioned above, my suspicion was confirmed while reading The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.
Yet other research also supports the idea that if you can do it, sprinting will get you a little big more bang for your buck than a typical jogging pace will.
Research today shows that sprinting creates more muscle while burning more fat (source), that oxygen consumption is the same in two minutes of intervals as it is in 30 minutes of sustained cardio workout (source), and that sprinting increases muscle mass more in women (source).
While all the evidence supported the conclusion that sprinting often had a serious (and attractive) effect on your body, I was a little bit upset to learn this.
Why, you ask?
Have you ever sprinted? It sucks. That's why.
So I came up with a solution. I would compromise. I would sprint, but at the end of my jog.
I'd maximize my exercise while maximizing my enjoyment.
It was the very spirit of being elitely happy.
So here are some benefits of sprinting at the end of your jog.
1) Increases VO2 Max
Your VO2 Max is essentially the amount of oxygen your body can process in a given time.
As a general rule of thumb, both aerobic (exercises with lots of oxygen) and anaerobic (exercises without much oxygen) will increase your VO2 Max, but research shows that anaerobic increases your VO2 Max by quite a bit more. (source).
Anaerobic exercises would be most exercises where you are unable to breathe adequately for the duration of the exercise. This would be most types of weight lifting, high intensity swimming, and sprinting, among others.
Aerobic exercises are the ones that make you huff and puff pretty consistently. A jog around the park at a moderate pace, bicycling, etc.
A neat thing about exercising is that the more anaerobic exercises you do, the better you are at aerobics.
Meaning that if all you do is burpees, you aren't gonna have much trouble keeping up with your friends when they go to drop some squats.
The science behind this lies in VO2 Max. The higher your VO2 Max, the less trouble you have with "easier" aerobic exercises.
The VO2 Max is one reason why I always end every long distance jog with a short distance sprint.
In fact, doing this helped me to cut my 3 mile time down by about one minute per mile in just a few weeks.
Sprinting after a jog works as a sort of reset for your body. It trains your body to be able to move faster over periods of time.
An interesting study shows that four sprint intervals for four minutes increased the participants' ability to work to exhaustion, ability to synthesize citrate, blood and arterial function, blood volume, and were able to stroke more (meaning they got faster).
Even more relevant to our discussion, only the group that did four sets of four minute exercises increased their VO2 Max, compared to one group that did 10 sets of 1 minutes sprints and another group that did 45 minutes of activity that was only moderate. (source).
Sprinting after your run helps your breathing, increases your endurance, makes you faster, ramps up your speed, and shows all your weenie friends how awesome you are.
2) Increases Heart Rate For Longer
Sprinting after a run causes your heart rate to go higher and stay higher for the next few minutes than if you had not sprinted at all.
This is really genius of you to do, if possible.
Let's assume that you're at the end of your run and you are absolutely exhausted!
You got it handed to you today.
You're coming in for the final tenth of a mile (any distance works, just an example).
Your body is worn out.
And what do you do?
Force it to do more.
Make it go above and beyond.
Training your body while it is weakest produces the most results.
Going from a jog to a sprint forces your body to perform at higher levels and to meet this performance, your heart is forced to pump extra blood into the muscles beyond what it normally does.
This causes your heart rate to skyrocket, increasing your VO2 Max and keeping your body burning calories for longer.
Not only does calorie burn last longer, but it is more intense while it does last because your body is forced to use more energy at 160 beats per minute (BPM) than at 120 BPM (pretty obvious actually).
Sprinting at the end of a run causes your body to burn more calories for longer periods of time than only jogging does.
3) Decreases Fat
A common misconception about heart rate is that lower heart rates actually burn more fat.
This is kinda true.
Calories come in a few forms: calories from fats, calories from carbs, and calories from proteins.
Your heart has a maximum amount of beats that it can do per minute. A good formula to calculate this is to subtract your age from 220.
So for example, a 20 year old would have a maximum heart rate of 200 BPM.
Within your max BPM, there are zones where you burn calories.
A standard jog will keep you mostly within your fat-burn range of 60%-79% of your max heart rate.
Sprinting will usually take you into the cardio zone of heart rate: about 80% or more of your max heart rate.
So some people will say that jogging burns more fat than sprinting because it keeps you in your fat-burn heart rate range.
However, this is only true to an extent.
In the fat-burn range, you don't necessarily burn more fat. You burn more fat calories relative to carbs.
So let's say for example that every time you aren't working out, you burn 50% carbs and 50% fats.
Don't get too science-y on me, this is just for kicks and giggles and it's in layman language.
While you're in your fat-burn heart rate range, you may burn 80% fats and 20% carbs.
So in this sense, you do burn more fat while in the fat-burn zone.
But you burn more calories by getting into the cardio zone.
And since calories that are not used are turned into fat...
You burn more fat by sprinting than you do by jogging.
In a strict sense, you burn a higher percentage of fat while only jogging.
In every other sense, your caloric burn is higher if you sprint.
So unless you're an ultramathoner, an extreme weight lifter, or anyone on the Paleo diet, the distinction is trivial.
More calories, and thus more future fats, are burned in sprints than jogs.
4) Increases Muscle Mass
Remember my earlier example where I said that as a child, I noticed which Olympians had the hot bods?
Notably, the sprinters were often muscular and obviously in incredible condition.
Distance runners... not so much.
The science behind this is that sprinting increases your muscle mass in a way that distance running does not.
In this study, participants were told to sprint for certain periods of time and after two weeks, their bodies were analyzed.
The participants were found at the end of the study to have stronger muscles that could contract for longer periods of time before exhaustion.
That's geek for "they were stronger and could go longer".
Their VO2 Max was also found to be higher.
Now don't get me wrong, sprinting isn't gonna make you look like the world's strongest guy or gal.
But it does tend to increase muscle density and endurance more than jogging alone does.
Thanks for reading!
While writing this post, I was inspired to go for a run a few times... and each time I ended with a sprint.
Post in the comments below: what's your favorite running training plan?
If you're lookin to start running but just aren't quite feeling up to it, here's an excellent post on some great benefits of running guaranteed to get you going.
Stay awesome. Have a great day.
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