Born to Run Sprint Humans are endurance runners. Before you shout “poppycock” and cause some heads to turn in your direction, know that I mean in reference to other animals. It is a combination of a few anatomical features (notably the Achilles tendon, large leg/foot joints, and a large gluteus maximus) that provide power, shock absorption, and stability necessary for a good long distance run. Humans also have larger amount of “slow-twitch” muscle fibers which resist fatigue much better than the fast-twitch muscles of both the predators and prey in the animal kingdom, and our relatively hairless bodies sweat and release heat more efficiently than other mammals. Some human societies still take advantage of “persistence hunting” where they chase an animal (e.g. an antelope) in the midday to exhaustion. It can sprint away a couple of times and get ahead for a little while, but it runs out of energy or gets overheated far more quickly and must stop to rest, allowing the slower paced but longer enduring human to catch up. So, knowing this, one might think that regular endurance running as exercise would be the best form of running to get fit, especially compared to sprinting. But what about sprinting? Just because we can’t outrun a horse over short distances doesn’t mean that there isn’t an upside to it. Consider the following:
- Sprinting better induces the body to produce growth hormones to help build lean muscle mass.
- Long distance running produces more free radicals in the body than sprinting, which some research suggests may accelerate aging (the “Free Radical Theory of Aging” asserts that the reason why an adults age is due to our cells and DNA accumulating damage from reacting with free radicals over time – it is not without controversy. For those of you who remember some basics of high school chemistry, free radicals are compounds that have an atom with an unpaired electron in an outer shell, which makes them highly reactive.)
- The combination of sprinting and resting exposes your heart to a wider ranges of beat rate. This helps train your heart to make quicker recovery to get back to “resting”.
But before you lace up those trainers, please stop and consider your current level of (in)activity. If you are a couch potato looking it get out there and shed some pounds while helping your heart, DO NOT try sprinting full speed right off the bat. It can cause muscle or tendon damage, and you could put too much stress on your heart. You can and need to work your way up to it. In the meantime try a workout that still allows for a range of heart rates so you can get that benefit.
By: Pasadena Personal Trainer Ron Le
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