There are numerous ways to train athletes from a cardiovascular standpoint. Steady-state cardiovascular endurance – jogging, walking, cycling on level surfaces or distance swimming are popular methods. So are various types of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
I’m putting this sprinting method out there because it seems that in every team sport coaches make athletes do “wind sprints,” “gassers,” or “suicides” at the end of practice. Typically, these athletes are told to start each run simultaneously and must reach a certain distance in a certain time or they’re forced to run again and again until the coach gets what he or she wants.
From a team-building, all-for-one-one-for-all standpoint, this is one of many ways to get a modicum of cardiovascular conditioning work and simultaneously work on camaraderie. But from a fitness standpoint, the coach is not doing the athletes justice.
No matter the interval times, that protocol will not be good for all of the athletes. The recovery time will be too much for some athletes and will not be enough for others. In other words, if the athletes are supposed to sprint 100 yards in 16 seconds then rest for 45 seconds, each athlete might make the 16 seconds. But, during recovery, a third of the athletes will be ready to sprint again in 20 seconds. A third will be ready in 45 seconds and a third will not be ready until well after the 45-second mark.
So, from a fitness standpoint, the coach’s protocol only benefits a third of the athletes, leaving two-thirds of them with improper training. Now, this isn't something scientific. I'm totally guesstimating the percentages. From experience, I know only a few benefit physically from the end-of-practice sprints.
Monitoring the heart rate is a much better way to achieve the fitness goal of those sprints. This is because the only reason the heart beats fast to pump oxygenated blood to needy organs and muscles. The heart slows once the body doesn’t need as much oxygen. The regular heartbeat is a signal that the body is refreshed and ready to go at a maximal effort again.
I’ve successfully used this method for many years.
Cost is definitely a factor because each athlete would need a heart-rate monitor. The monitors can run from $35 up to more than $100. They are, however, an amazing tool to have. The protocols outlined in this post will talk about how to do this with and without a monitor.
WITH A HEART RATE MONITOR
Track or grass or beach (do not do on concrete or cement), heart-rate monitor, stopwatch, pen, paper.
Start this with a dynamic warm-up that includes sprint mechanics.
Measure off 10 yards, and do each of these drills for 20 yards. Skip forward. Skip backward. Shuffling. High knees. Butt kicks. A-skips. Stiff-leg bounds (SLB). SLB alternate leg fast leg. Walking Hamstrings. Walking Leg Kicks. Lunges Reaching Up. Lunges w/Twist. Walking Quads. Walking Glutes. Int/Ext Hip Rotations. Carioca. Frankies.
Rest for two minutes after the warm-up. Then check the heart rate, and write it down, this is the athlete’s active heart rate for this exercise session.
1. Measure off 35 yards. 2. Tell the athlete/s to prepare to sprint. 3. Start the stopwatch as soon as the athlete/s begins sprinting. 4. “Lap” the stopwatch when the athlete/s passes the 35-yard marker. Log the post-sprint stopwatch time AND the highest post-sprint heart rate.5. Wait until the heart rate returns to the active heart-rate level. When the athlete reaches the active heart-rate level, log the stopwatch time and have the athlete immediately sprint again. 6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until 10 sprints AND final recovery has been completed. 7. Log total time to complete workout.
WITHOUT A HEART RATE MONITOR
Go through the same warmup as mentioned above. Or, if it’s after practice, instruct the athlete to use the index and middle fingers to prepare to check the heart rate using the carotid artery in the neck immediately after practice ends and remember that number. Tell the athlete to start counting and simultaneously start the stopwatch. Tell the athlete to stop counting at that 15-second mark. Multiply the heart rate count by four.
1. Measure 35 yards or the desired distance. 2. Tell the athlete to prepare to sprint. 3. Start the stopwatch as soon as the athlete starts. 4. “Lap” the stopwatch when the athlete passes the 35-yard marker. Log the post-sprint stopwatch time and instruct the athlete to use the index and middle fingers to measure the heart rate as described above.5. Wait until the athlete feels ready, and test the heart rate again. Instruct the athlete to sprint again when heart rate returns to the active heart-rate level. When the athlete reaches the active heart-rate level, log the stopwatch time and have the athlete immediately sprint again. 6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until 10 sprints AND final recovery has been completed. 7. Log total time to complete workout.
Multiple ways to use the information:
First off, the heart-rate sprinting is a good workout that could last 10 minutes or 50 minutes or more depending on the athlete’s fitness level.
The workout measures:
· Total time to do complete the 10 sprints.
· Time to complete each individual sprint.
· Time to recover between each sprint and after the final sprint.
Used as an assessment tool, we can see:
· If the athlete runs as fast during the final few sprints as was run during the first few sprints.
· If the recovery time stays the same, increases or decreases.
· If the total time stays the same, increases or decreases.
We can use that information to adjust the athlete’s programming. I use heart-rate sprinting with a few athletes once per week.