Should Athletes Run Wind Sprints for Conditioning?

Should Athletes Run Wind Sprints
Athletic Training General Speed

You’re knackered, not because you’ve been running intervals for hours. Rather, reading one article after another of recycled babble with each making bold claims about the perks of wind sprints can be mentally exhausting.

A quick Google search of ‘wind sprints’ yields a wealth of articles from the most popular fitness sites, all urging you to drop what you’re doing and perform these interval runs to elevate your body composition, speed, and conditioning.

The sprinting method entails periods of top-speed running coupled with periodic resting, jogging, and walking.

While wind sprints confer a myriad of perks, it’s worth noting that they’re not the one-size-fits-all method that these sites claim them to be. Therefore, it’s time to wise up and learn about where exactly wind sprints fit into your training for the desired results.

Given that conditioning, speed, and fat loss are the most popular reasons people join the bandwagon of wind sprints; we’ll clear up the claims. Buckle up as we explore the potential alternatives and true perks for an improved outcome in these areas.

Running Speed

Speed

Unless you unlock excellent running techniques for a quicker leg cycle or have an epiphany while sprinting, simply performing an array of sprints won’t drastically boost your running speed.

If someone told you to run faster than you can, you’d probably ditch them as a coach and suggest they turn themselves into the white coats. The truth is, your muscles are fire at a specific rate and must be ‘tricked’ into faster contractions.

Therefore, sprint intervals entail the application of improper techniques until they’re permanently ingrained in your muscle firing pattern. Consequentially, you’d run at the same speed, but for a longer duration before your cardiovascular system and muscles experience fatigue.

If you’re on the quest for speed improvement, work with a coach to discover areas of development in your running mechanics. Alternatively, you can introduce exercises that boost your muscle firing rate or force production using over-speed training.

Incorporating the following training variables into your wind sprints can address these objectives and usher in elevated speed.

High Knees

It boosts the knee drive aspect (toes up and knees up) of the leg cycle.

Straight Leg Strikes

It emphasizes the cycling and pulling pattern of your foot strikes amidst top speed techniques.

Butt Kicks

It promotes quicker leg cycles by making the lever arm of your leg shorter.

Power Skips

It focuses on the unloading and pre-loading stages of your knee drive.

Forward Bounds

These optimize the power production for each foot strike while promoting thrice the extension for the acceleration stage.

Uphill Wind Sprints

When you sprint uphill, your body is bound for power while maintaining a high stride frequency that’s closely similar to that of a sprint. To cover forward and upward ground, your muscles must fire with increased force, elevating one side of the power equation.

Perform a maximum of 10 sets with downhill wind sprints coupled with 60 to 90 seconds of rest, based on the hill’s degree of incline and length.

Downhill Wind Sprints

Downhill sprinting is a type of over-speed training that compels your legs to cycle faster for superior stride frequency and turnover, boosting the power equation’s speed aspect. Combine 10 to 12 sets of downhill and uphill sprints with up to 90 seconds of recovery depending on the hill steepness and length.

Fat Loss

Fat Loss

We’ve come a long way from thinking the most effective way of shedding fat is slow performance, steady-state cardio. It entails spending hours watching your favorite TV show with your limbs on an indoor exercise bike or treadmill just enough to be regarded as non-sedentary.

The initial claim was that this exertion level burned a substantial amount of fat (contrary to protein and carbohydrates) as a source of energy.

Contrarily, keeping your heart rate pinned in greater cardio exercise zones was dependent on increased carbohydrate energy sources. While the ratios were not far off, the total number of calories burned during steady and slow cardio was negligible in the grand scheme of fat loss. On the other hand, vigorous cardio sessions proved futile in burning a high percentage of fat regardless of the greater calorie output.

Regarding HIIT, an acronym for High-Intensity Interval Training, allowing your heart rate to soar to the ‘cardio zone’ before plummeting to the ‘fat-burning’ zone ushered in superior calorie expenditure. Concurrently, it ‘tricked’ the body to reach into its fat reserves for energy.

HIIT training also generated long-lasting Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), maintaining high levels of calorie burn for hours after completing the session.

If fat loss is your objective, the main factor to consider is nutrition and resistance training that targets lean muscle growth and elevated metabolism. After addressing these two aspects, interval routines that center on heart rate rather than speed or distance can be an advantageous component of a fat loss training program.

Conditioning

Although it’s been applied to mental endurance, cardio delay, muscle fatigue, and everything in between, conditioning must be conducted with a purpose in mind. For athletes, all categories of conditioning should be geared towards increasing their endurance towards the wealth of stresses the come with their sports.

The good news is that wind sprints are a foolproof type of conditioning for an array of sports. The problem stems from the commonly prescribed cookie-cutter approach. All sports can be analyzed and categorized into certain rest and work periods. For both, the heart rate zones can be computed and trained upon.

While everyone can benefit from more exercise, it’s no secret that, at times, it quite literally pays to sweat the small stuff and incorporate a method to your madness. You can conduct your due diligence on the work-to-rest ratios for your particular sport, then plan your workout sessions around these intervals.

Consider the maximum speed at which you move in your sport and your highest heart rate at this speed. To condition your lungs and legs for increased longevity in the game and fast attack from start to finish, your wind sprints should revolve around intensities and distances closely similar to the distance covered during intense sports training.

Remember, thorough dynamic warm-ups should precede wind sprints. Each should be followed by a complete stretching routine that addresses abductors, quads, groin (adductors), hamstrings, rotation-based stretching patterns, calves, and the glutes.