Sprinting to get better at jogging?
We know that many of you reading this might be strava addicts looking to get faster split times and show off to your friends, or social/competitive sports players, or even just weekend warriors who like to jog.
If this is you and you're looking to get faster, yet you haven't been incorporating sprinting into your training, you might be missing out on a big performance booster!
Research suggests that by increasing your maximal sprint speed, not only will you increase qualities like muscle mass, jump height, change of direction speed etc, but you can also increase your endurance performance!
The theory is that by increasing your 'speed reserve', sub-maximal or lower intensity efforts become less taxing. Your speed reserve is simply the difference between your maximum speed and your maximum aerobic speed (your max sustainable pace - eg your PB on a 5km run). In other words, the faster your top end speed, the faster your lower end speed will be.
"The benefit of a speed-reserve approach is that the benefits of maximal sprint training can feed back into all sub-maximal speed and power abilities, but the same cannot be said for the opposite direction." (Hansen, 2014).
Put simply, speed training can get you faster at lower intensities, but lower intensity training (eg jogging) won't improve your top end speed. So it's a no-brainer for those looking to improve performance.
According to Sanford et al (2018), two athletes with similar running speeds at VO2max can have significantly different sprint speeds. However, the athlete with the higher maximal sprint speed worked at a lower percentage of their maximal capacity when both were prescribed the same intensity.
Furthermore, they found that maximal sprint speed had the strongest relationship with 800m and 1200m performance.
Kirsten et al (2005), conducted one of the first studies showing strong evidence for the benefits of sprint interval training for endurance performance.
They showed that aerobic endurance capacity was dramatically improved after only six sessions of sprint interval training. Despite VO2 peak remaining the same, exercise time to exhaustion more than doubled in six of eight subjects who performed the training intervention and the mean performance improvement was 100%.
They concluded that sprint interval training in recreationally active individuals doubled their endurance capacity.
So, the takeaway from all of this?
If you want to go to the next level, it's time to sprint! Take a graded approach to it (don't go 0-100 overnight).
Better yet, get help from a coach to ensure you can progress in a safe and effective manner!