Training for Female Sprinters
Female sprinters train year-round to perfect their sport. Sprinting events include the 100 m, 200 m and 400 m dash, and hurdles. To excel on race day, female sprinters follow dynamic training plans that include speed drills, plyometrics, strength training and rest. All workouts should begin with a five- to 10-minute warmup and end with a cooldown and stretching.
Sprinting is an anaerobic sport, which means sprinters work so intensely that the blood stream is unable to bring oxygen to the muscles fast enough. This causes lactic acid buildup, the burning sensation we feel in our legs as our muscles start to fatigue. Female sprinters work hard to improve their lactic threshold and continue to sprint longer without encountering lactic acid buildup. Speed drills help athletes build speed while mimicking race-day conditions. Sprinters should perform four to 10 repeats either slightly longer or shorter than their specific event. Shorter repeats will be performed near maximum lactic capacity, while longer repeats will be run at a slightly easier pace. Speed drills are typically performed on the track, but may also be done on hills for an added challenge. Depending on the season, speed drills will be performed two to four times per week.
Plyometrics incorporate quick surges of muscular power that force the muscles to reach maximum strength in a short amount of time. Female sprinters can benefit greatly from adding plyometrics into their training plans. In sprinting, runners need to reach maximum speed as quickly as possible. Performing regular drills such as jumps and high knees can help sprinters push out of the starting blocks and maintain a fast pace until the finish line. Plyometrics may be performed with weightlifting or after your warmup, and should always be completed on a soft surface such as grass.
Female sprinters require a greater amount of muscle mass than their distance running counterparts. This is because sprinters use an incredible amount of explosive muscle power to achieve and maintain a fast pace. A well-rounded training plan for female sprinters should include two days a week of strength training to work all major muscle groups, with a focus on lower-body muscles.
Rest and Recovery
An important part of any female sprinter’s training plan is adequate rest and recovery. This can mean total rest, which gives tired muscles a chance to heal after being pushed to their limits during a race, or active rest such as longer runs performed at an easy pace to clear lactic acid and build endurance. During peak season, female sprinters should plan at least one total rest day per week after racing. For the rest of the year, sprinters may choose to take one rest day or, if feeling strong, go for a slow, easy run to recuperate.
Danielle DeSimone is a writer and sports nutritionist living in Point Pleasant, N.J. She holds a B.A. in writing, literature and publishing from Emerson College and is currently a student of veterinary technology. As a freelance writer, DeSimone enjoys covering health, fitness and nutrition.