Sprinting: Things I Wish I Knew
NEUFF ATHLETIC X THE VISIONS PODCAST
Are you new to sprinting? If so, you may be overwhelmed with the thought of constructing your training routines. Or, your competitions could be creeping up on you, and you're looking for that extra reassurance to help you feel on top form ahead of time...
If any of the above resonates with you, we have just the podcast for you! In this latest episode produced by The Visions Podcast for Neuff Athletic, sprint athlete Destiny Ogali discusses what he wishes he knew as a brand new face to the sport with his co-host JT.
Coming from a football background, Destiny was initially a little apprehensive about becoming a sprinter... however, once he made that leap into athletics, he's not looked back ever since, and he's here to help other up-and-coming athletes recognise their potential moving forward!
Listen to Destiny's sound advice by watching the video below. Alternatively, you can find a transcript of Destiny's conversation by scrolling down the page.
HOW SHOULD A BEGINNER START SPRINTING?
"I think it just starts by going to your local athletics track or club.
They will have an infrastructure in place and they'll have coaches, set training days and times to help you get into a set routine. When you're a beginner, you want to learn what sprinting is all about, and when you join a club, you should be able to do this and pick things up a lot more easily.
If you don't have one in your local area, you may have to travel a little further. However, even if it comes to this, I still recommend doing so!
Or, if you're at school, you can always ask your PE teachers questions. If you have a particular teacher who did track and field or is still involved in it, definitely speak to them and see what they may suggest.
Get a feel for it and see if you like it. If you don't like it, you might want to end up going somewhere else, or you may find out you're more suited to other disciplines, such as distance running or field events... by going to a club, you will be able to try out different things.
HOW SHOULD A BEGINNER TRAIN AS A SPRINT ATHLETE?
"You should definitely be smart in your training!
When I first went to Dacorum AC, I had no idea what it was going to be like. In my sessions, I went crazy and would blast all of the runs knowing that I still had a few more to go. Don't do the same as I did!
Ease your way into it, and pick up on what your club or coach is telling you, especially with drills and warming up. Coming from a football background, the training we would be doing in track is much more comprehensive. You do your jog, your stretches, your drills... the warm-up is even longer than the session itself!
It might not be something you're used to at first, so take all of it in, and remember to ask questions if you're not sure about something.
When you first start out, you may not know how to pace yourself out properly and you may not know other things, such as the difference between 70% and 80%.
Just take your time, know how fast or slow you're supposed to be going and make adjustments where necessary. You might mess up somewhere along the lines, but that's OK, as it shows that you're learning and growing.
In fact, I'm still trying to learn and grow in the sport myself!"
WHAT IS NOT A GOOD THING TO DO BEFORE SPRINTING?
"Don't go straight in without warming up!
You might see this happen at the local county schools or meetings where younger athletes do their racing without any form of warm up to support it. You definitely need to make sure this doesn't happen with you.
Go for a lap jog, do a few sprints beforehand or do some dynamic stretches... do things that will prepare you for what you're about to do. You want to reduce the risk of injuries where you can.
You will shock your muscles if you don't warm up beforehand, as you're effectively going from 0 to 100. You need to build yourself into your sprints to help slowly increase your heart rate and build up your body temperature.
If you don't know what warm ups you should be doing, ask your PE teachers, your coach or whoever else may be around you that could help. Let your coaches know when you will be at an event, and they will advise you on how you should be warming up in advance.
By doing this, you will be putting yourself in a better position to run fast and to finish the race unscathed without being injured. You might not get injured initially, but you still want to be careful, regardless.
The biggest mistake I see people making is people warming up before they're about to race. It's so important!"
CAN YOU DO SPRINTS EVERYDAY? AND WHAT DAYS SHOULD YOU SET ASIDE FOR RECOVERY?
"Recovery days are important, as this will give you the opportunity to rejuvenate to go again when you next train.
When it comes to how much you should be sprinting, it depends on your availability and how old you are. If you're just starting out, you may want to ease yourself in. It may be 2-3 sessions a week, of if you take part in other sports or have other commitments, it may be less.
I think if you're just starting out, then I think 1-2 days works pretty well and you can progress that as you get older. The more you enjoy it... the more you're going to want to do!
There's conditioning that come into all of this as well. However, when you're older, you may have a set day in the gym depending on the programme your coach has set out for you. Adhere to what the programme is!
If you're top level, you may sprint two days, have a day off and then a day in the gym... everyone's programmes are different."
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO SEE RESULTS FROM SPRINTING?
"I think once you start training as an athlete, you're going to see an immediate change in your body, and you may feel things that you wouldn't have ever felt before!
You may not have experienced such a high level of fatigue or muscle soreness before. For me, I think my improvement rate was gradual. However, depending on your coach and their priorities, you should see an improvement in your technique and how you're running.
You might not have greatest technique and your arms could be all over the place. The way you're landing might not be great, or your body might be really tight... however, as you go through the weeks, you will be able to iron these small things out.
When you start drilling, you will feel smoother and more comfortable when you're running. It all depends on the individual, as some may be able to pick things up more quickly than others.
I think you'll be able to see results overtime. After maybe three weeks of consistent sessions, you should then be learning the drills and understand why you're doing the drills. It should then feel a little bit different when you run.
The coach has a lot to do with this too, as they may really ease you into it, whereas others may chuck you into the deep end. It's about being patient with things like this, and just continuing to go forward.
It's a good idea to ask your coach what things you have gotten better at, and what things you should improve on. You might feel a lot more comfortable in the runs and you might be a bit more comfortable warming up. Your fitness levels might increase relatively quickly... again, it all depends on the individual.
I would also say being consistent with training is key, and by that I mean showing up every time. Asking those questions to your coach is always important, too.
Having a week on and then a week off isn't ideal, either. You want to have that continuity so you can pick things up, as it's always going to be difficult when you start out. The journey in track and field in general is tough, but you can ask as many questions as you can and then pick up things while you're at your sessions.
Do as much as you can to recover between sessions too, so that if you have a bad week, you will be ready for the next one.
WHAT IS A GOOD SPRINT ROUTINE?
"I think turning up and warming up is a good start to this.
Some people do strides or a lap, something to essentially raise your pulse. Some people have different views on what types of stretches they like to do, too. For me, I like to do dynamic stretches, although others may prefer to do static stretches instead. Either way, these will warm up the muscles and get your body feeling a lot more loose and limber.
Then, you can transition that into a few drills. These drills are going to work on your specific technique and will mimic the motions of your sprinting. They will be progressive, as you'll start with one drill, and then progress into drills which are more movement and running based.
The initial ones could involve you moving forward with something like an A skip, and then you might transition that into a high knee. There's different drills and people call them all sorts of names... but, as long as the drills get you moving, this is what you ultimately want!
Your drills will then transition into your running, which will then lead into strides. Initially, I saw this as an extended version of your running. As I carried on, however, my understanding of this eventually changed.
Your strides will help you pick up your speed and during these strides, you will have a better chance to understand how you feel. Your drills will give you a good estimate as to where you are at in that day, but once you do your strides, you really will be able to tell how you're really feeling.
In sprinting, if anything is off, you'll really be able to feel it, as you're using so many different muscles. If your calves are tight, you will feel it. If you're hamstring is sore, you will feel it. This will all be in trainers initially, and then once you put on spikes and carry on your strides, you eventually get more into it.
This is what I do, but of course, others could be different to me. I think my routine works really well for progression, as you're going from low intensity to higher levels of intensity. You'll be able to feel the process of going from "cold" to really being warmed up and limber to go.
HOW DO YOU FOLLOW YOUR SPRINT ROUTINE WITHOUT GETTING TIRED?
"Take your time, guys!
Take small breaks in between and have a little rest where you can. Just don't get too tired! Remember that this is just for the warm up, and nothing else.
You might do your jog, your stretches and then take a break... whichever way you do it, make sure that you're never overdoing it. Depending on what the emphasis is for your coach, the drills don't necessarily have to be all about speed, because you'll also want to find time to concentrate on your technique.
If you're just starting out, your coach might get you to do the drills a little bit slower, to get your body in those specific positions that they're trying to get you to be in, to help you with your running.
Doing those drills is definitely tiring. Take frequent breaks, take it bit by bit and be intentional with what you're doing. Even if it's just stretches, you want to make sure that you're stretching properly to reduce the risk of injuries, and you'll want to be paying attention to those details. And when you're striding, you'll want to make sure that you're nice and relaxed."
HOW SHOULD YOU BE BREATHING THROUGHOUT YOUR SPRINTING AND YOUR DRILLS?
Everyone breathes differently... in fact, some sprinters don't even breathe at all when they're running!
It depends, and to be honest, I've never thought much about this myself! I think it's developed as I've trained more over time, and I think I've now found what works best where this is concerned.
Being relaxed in everything you're doing is important and this includes your breathing, as you don't want it to be too forced or strenuous, which will put pressure on your chest, shoulders or neck.
Just keep it all relaxed as much as you possibly can."
HOW DO YOU PREPARE YOUR BODY FOR SPRINTING?
"If we're talking pre-session, then you want to make sure that you're having a nice meal 2-3 hours before your training, so that the food won't be rolling around in your stomach. Also, make sure that you're getting in all of those carbohydrates and proteins which you will need, so that you're feeling fully energised.
It's important to have food as when you are running, this is what you will be burning. When you finish your training session, you will then need to put this energy back into your body to replenish what your body has just burnt.
Also, making sure that you have all of your kit ready is important, so that you're not turning up to your sessions feeling any unnecessary stress.
Or, if you have any niggles the day before, doing stretches to make you limber and loose will definitely help.
Maintaining good communication with your coach and finding out what the session will consist of beforehand or telling them how you're feeling is also important. You can then make the necessary adjustments based on the communication you have here, so I would definitely recommend this, too."
DOES THIS ALSO APPLY TO PREPARATION JUST BEFORE A RACE?
"Before a race, you want to make sure you're as relaxed and as chilled as you can possibly be.
Nothing should really change that much between training and your races. You train more than you race, so you shouldn't need to alter anything! Everything just comes down a little bit in terms of the training sessions and the loads.
There's more emphasis on specific sessions when you're doing them, more rest and recovery. If you think that a massage will help, then get that massage sorted too, just to make sure that you're feeling 100% on the day.
Taking care of the body and keeping pretty much everything the same is what I would advise."
HOW MANY HOURS A DAY SHOULD SPRINTERS BE TRAINING?
When you go up levels, you will need to be training more, as it's going to become more demanding. When I first started out, I was only doing a couple days every week, whereas now it's significantly more than that. However, my routine can change, depending on the week.
In terms of hours, this depends too. It could be from two to six hours, depending on where you're at. Some people take longer to train in some instances!
It's about finding what's best for you. You could have two sessions in one day, and that could be a long day, especially if you're taking other factors into consideration, such as travelling. You might also have gym sessions too, which could take a while depending on the sets you do.
As long as you're prepared for that session in the day, regardless of how long it will be, it will help you to propel forward for the next training session, or it will help you to recover from the session you've just done."
WHAT SHOULD SPRINTERS BE DOING IN THE GYM?
"Lots of different things!
There's exercises you could be doing such as Olympic lifts, cleans, squats or you might be more machine based, depending on how your coach wants to run it. It's just about strengthening, as you want to build your power and your strength.
Being able to move moderate to heavy weights quickly will also help you to build up that strength which you will need. It's gradual, and it's about being taught how to lift effectively as well as how to do it safely. It can be dangerous, and it did take me some time to learn all of the different cleans and squats.
I'm still working to get better at each and every one of them in terms of technique. Some people may not enjoy the gym initially, much like I didn't, as we just want to run! But, it is quite important, and once you're able to do the lifts properly, you will be able to enjoy it a whole lot more.
Understanding that everyone is not the same, and that everyone may not be able to lift heavier weights (regardless of how good their technique is) will be crucial. However, this is OK! You'll just have to make adjustments and you may have to do more body weight stuff, for example.
Some athletes (sprinters specifically) may love the gym and love doing all of that stuff, whereas others may not so much. It's about seeing the benefit of it, and knowing that it will eventually make you stronger.
Make sure you have a coach there if you can, too. As a young athlete, you may not necessarily be in the gym straight away, and your coach may make you do exercises such as push ups, crunches, squats and circuit based exercises to help get you conditioned.
Your body does take a lot of impact and force when you're running at high speeds, so conditioning and gym work will help you to do that. You'll never quite know how you'll take it and how your body is going to feel the next day, especially when you lift.
You might finish a session and feel great, whereas the next day, it may hit you like a ton of bricks! You may get DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which I didn't know about to begin with.
For one of the first times I went into the gym back when I was in sixth form, my muscles were so sore over the next few days and I could barely move my legs! I asked my PE teacher about it, and he said that it was DOMS. It hurt so bad and it was so, so painful!
However, as you go to the gym more frequently, it alleviates that. Once you have better recovery methods, this can also help to reduce the impact of that."
FINALLY... IS BEING A FAST SPRINTER GENETIC?
"I think it is, to an extent!
My father ran and my mother was very much involved in sport when she was younger, so I think I probably did get those genes. Not only that, I also have a sister who took part in sport.
It is a tough one, but I think there is some truth in this! However, if you go out there and really enjoy sprinting, I think anyone can definitely get quicker in their training, regardless.
It's similar to where people say that some are genetically bigger where the gym is concerned. I saw some people in my school who were just naturally big and who did no form of training whatsoever. However, there are also other people who were really skinny, but are now big as they've trained a lot.
I think it depends on the training. Genetics could help you initially, like it may have done for me, as I didn't realise I was fast to begin with and I just genuinely enjoyed running. However, you shouldn't have the mindset where you believe your genetics will be enough without any training, as you always want to strive to be better, no matter what your background or DNA may consist of.
If you're parents did run, then that's cool. However, it shouldn't necessarily put you at a disadvantage in terms of having that willingness to train.
If you enjoy sprinting and training, just go out there and sprint, and see what you can achieve! I can't definitively say that it's all genetic, but on the other hand, I could have not been involved in sport whatsoever, so it's also dependent on your choices.
Some people might not even find out, because they may not like sport and not want to get involved, even if they do have a natural ability to succeed. I've seen many examples of people who are great at rugby, track etc... yet they still don't want to do it!"
A FINAL NOTE FROM DESTINY...
Thanks for listening, and myself and JT will catch you guys in the next one!
ABOUT THE VISIONS PODCAST
The Visions Podcast is hosted by Destiny Ogali and his co-host JT.
Podcasts are released every Friday on their Apple Podcasts page, and their content focuses on conversations revolving around sports, culture and faith.
Take a better look at what they do by visiting their various channels. You can do this by checking out their Linktree page!
YouTube: Visions Podcast