How To Take 10 Years Off Your Sprint Speed
What is the key to playing sport in your forties? To me, it’s getting rid of your excuses. Excuses not to train are easy to find in winter, but two fears loom large when you hit your forth decade. First off I’m more likely to get injured and secondly, I’m getting slower and going to find it harder to keep up to speed.
The first fear, of injury, is the reason I went to Joey Boland and the SPI team. Having put in 3 years of weekly sessions, I’ve not only managed two injury free seasons, but have also ironed out a few long term issues, such as lower back pain and a ten-year-old shoulder strain. More importantly, i feel like I’m in great shape every time I hit the pitch.
The big one though, is the fear of losing speed. Cher isn’t the only one that wants to turn back time.
Before we get into how we tackled this, it’s worth looking at how much speed we actually lose with age. If we look at the world record data for the 100M “Masters”, we can see the clear decline over the years is inevitable, but measurable.
For those of you not familiar with it, this is the story of how fast you can run. You start out slow, as a child, then hit close to max around 18, plateau until approx 35, the decline after that is clearly shown in the results above.
If we look at little more closely, we can work out the rate of that decline.
That works out as an average decline of 3.6% every 5 years, or 0.72%/year. The reality we would rather not face in those numbers, is that we lose 7.2% of our sprint speed in 10 years. Yikes.
So how did we front up to father time?
Well, I teamed up with Catherine Simpson of SPI, who believed that the best first step was measuring where we were. We thought that a 30M sprint test was the best and most useful measure, so she took me out to a local park with measuring tape and stopwatch in hand. It turned out that my 43 year old, 6’2″, 15 stone frame could move 30M in 5.05 seconds.
While I wasn’t going to be breaking any records, I felt that I had a decent result for someone in reasonable shape. Catherine had other ideas, so we spent November, December and January working hard to improve things. Over that period, I doubled up my sessions to twice weekly with Catherine. We also expanded the scope of my training regimen to include some basics of sprint mechanics.
Hopefully Catherine can follow up this post with a bit more detail on the path she brought me on. I’m not expert enough to give you the detail, but in rough outline, I can tell you a little about my experience.
Prior to this, I though sprinting was running faster; turns out it’s not.
Sprinting seems closer to skipping than running. There is requirement that you get “up” on the front of your feet. There is technique in this, many hours spent marching/skipping to Catherine’s command helped get this part right.
When you get up there, you need to manage the transfer of the energy you create. That means avoiding any power “leak” by keeping a solid core, hips tucked, ribs pulled down. If you can manage that, you then have to deal with the power transfer between leg thrusts. There is a tendency to push your knees forward with your quads, it seems that reaching that knee out will drive you forward.
In reality, it’s more about the large muscles at the back of your legs than the front, making full use of your glutes and hamstrings.
You’ll need a knee lock, which, after a while, you’ll feel transferring the power over towards the opposites leg’s next extension.
Easy, right? You can imagine these things come with much repetition, many hours. But when you feel it, you feel it. I still remember the first time I got “up” and sprinting at training, it felt like I had found a new gear. This creates a problem, in that it takes new strength as well as concentration to sprint correctly, I can run in that new gear for a few seconds, but I am then exhausted. So we have a new problem to solve.
You might be wondering how this changed my sprint times? Well, after three months of work, we went back out to the park and timed my 30M sprint for a second time. The result? 4.78 seconds. That’s a 5.6% reduction from the 5.05. It’s not quite the 7.2% you’ll lose in ten years, but close to it. It was a great way to spend the cold dark months of winter, a bit of pre-season that has me chomping at the bit for the year ahead. Knowing Catherine, it won’t be long before she’s given me a bit more power, ironed out a few glitches in my technique and has knocked those last few years off my sprint speed.
This article was written by LB, an SPI Client, not for financial reward, but as a mark of gratitude to Catherine Simpson, Joey Boland and all the team at SPI for all their very expert help, diligence and enthusiasm in keeping me keepin’ on!