First and foremost, before starting any training plan, you should consider your medical history and your training history. Ask yourself—or better yet, a physician—if you are healthy enough for high-intensity exercise.
After you have determined whether you are safe to perform high-intensity exercise, then you want to consider your training history. Do you have an experienced background in track racing, specifically in sprinting? Even if you have experience, has it been a few years, or maybe a few decades, since you last competed in a race? Regardless of your training history, you will still want to take to following steps to lower your risk for injury as well as to increase your overall performance
Running mechanics are often a primary cause of running-related injuries. Poor mechanics can place undue stress on the body, leading to a breakdown of your kinetic chain as a whole as well as subsequent injury.
To improve your mechanics, begin with a handful of running drills such as A skips, B skips, and C skips, foot turnover drills while leaning against a wall, and arm/leg action drills. These drills are simple, but it is important to ensure proper form for maximum benefit. Furthermore, using these drills as a dynamic warm-up can also lower your risk of injury.
Runners may often neglect strength as an integral aspect of their training plan. While sprinting is a linear sport, lateral stabilization is still of paramount importance. Often, injuries of the knee and the hip can be directly related to poor lateral stabilization of the glutes and the core muscles. Working these areas is neither complicated nor time consuming, and developing lateral stabilization will ultimately improve your ability to propel forward down the track.
Whether you possess a track training background or not, it is nevertheless important to build speed gradually. While you may be excited on your first day of training, giving 110% will only lead to fatigue and overuse. Start by building a base of aerobic fitness or sprints at 50% intensity. After determining that your mechanics are proficient, you can progress to 75% intensity. Remember, there is no use building speed if you have faulty mechanics, as you will be limiting your overall potential.
While training naturally helps you run faster, recovery is in fact where most of the gains are made. When you exercise, you induce micro tears in the muscle. Your muscles will respond by healing back stronger than they were before. You repeat this cycle over and over to improve performance.
If, however, you don’t allow your muscles to recover then you are limiting your overall improvements. Taking the time to recover does not mean you are weak; it means you will be stronger tomorrow.
About the Author
Aaron Karp, MS, ATC, CSCS is a sports performance specialist at the Tisch Sports Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. He received his bachelor’s in kinesiology from UMass Amherst and master’s in athletic training from Texas A&M University, and is both a certified athletic trainer and certified strength and conditioning specialist.