For the past six weeks I have been engaged in sprint training two or three times a week and during this time I have noticed some physical benefits that I'm really excited about - my clothes are getting looser, my sprints are getting quicker and my HIIT classes are getting easier to deliver back-to-back.
But, I'm just one person commenting on a few benefits I can see and feel in my body, so what are the actual benefits of sprint training from a more scientific perspective? I have received a few DMs on Instagram about this recently, especially now that I'm getting a few people joining me for free sprint sessions in Glenboig, so I thought it was time to do a bit of research and share my findings.
With regards to our overall physical wellbeing, sprint training has been shown by researchers (Vollaard and Metcalfe, 2017) to improve V02 Max, improve cardio respiratory function and reduce blood pressure. Especially during the Coronavirus pandemic, these benefits are essential to our health and improve not only how much oxygen you can inhale and use to create the energy we need to live and be active, but also better protect you against the risk of lung disease, strokes and heart attacks (NHS, 2019).
If we turn our attention now to fat loss, which is something that most, if not all, of my clients are aiming for by attending my weekly HIIT classes (Glenboig Bootcamp and BodyHIIT), the research suggests that sprint training can help them to achieve their goals too. If we keep it simple initially, sprint training has been suggested to be successful at improving body composition (i.e. reducing fat and increasing muscle mass) and improving insulin sensitivity (Vollaard and Metcalfe, 2017). In case you're unsure, insulin sensitivity refers to how effectively your body can reduce blood sugar levels and store what it can in your body's cells, to be used later as energy. Building on that, it has also been previously suggested that sprint training improves fat oxidisation, a benefit caused by increased glycogen depletion (Galloway et al, 2007). To simplify this point, sprint training will use up more of the fuel stored in the muscles, forcing the body to improve how efficiently it can call upon and use stored bodyfat to create energy. This is definitely one of the benefits I am currently experiencing after six weeks of regular sprints!
The final area I want to cover in this article is the benefits available to aspiring and experienced distance runners - this topic specifically came up in the DMs on Instagram. The experts indicate that runners who enjoy distances between 3-10Km, either leisurely, or competitively, can expect a range of benefits from doing as little as one sprint session a week. These benefits include an improvement in top speed (obviously?!), increased power and endurance for those big inclines, and improved recovery after the peak of the hill (Miller, 2020). Going deeper in to the science again, it has also been argued that participants engaging in sprint training for ten weeks can show increased aerobic capacity and improved oxygen uptake (Esfarjani and Laursen, 2007). Basically, the higher your aerobic capacity, and the more oxygen you can get in to the blood stream, the quicker you can run for longer durations/distances. This can also be referred to as improving your 'VO2 Max', as referenced earlier.
This is all sounds wonderful, right? But, why isn't everyone doing this already if it's so beneficial?!
I'll be honest, if you don't really know what to do, you might find it really hard to get started in this, especially if you don't like training outdoors on your own. Essentially, you are just going out to run as fast as you can over a specific distance numerous times, or setting up some short shuttles on a football pitch, but it's totally understandable if you don't have the confidence to do this on your own, or aren't sure what to do - I can help you with both of these things.
From my experience over the past ten years of sports coaching and fitness training, working out with a group of peers or likeminded individuals boosts competiveness and accountability. This means that you can gain confidence quicker, work harder and generally get much more from the activity when training as part of a group. Like I said at the start of this article, for the past few weeks here in Glenboig I have been offering people to join me for free on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings at Glenboig Park and give this a try. Everyone who has tried it once or come back repeatedly is loving getting outside early in the morning to blast out some sprints, get fitter and have fun as a group.
However, if you don't live in Glenboig or anywhere else nearby and can't come try my sprint sessions, please feel free to get in touch and I'll happily give you a basic session to try out on your own or with some friends. Failing that, we could even arrange a one-off 1-1 training session in your local area and I'll show you exactly how to get the most out of this activity with a full warm-up and cool-down.
So there you have it, sprint training has a range of benefits for all you to take advantage of, whether you're trying to lose fat, get fitter overall or increase your running speed. Give it a try, and let me know how you get on via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!