The Difference in a Sprinter's & a Marathon Runner's Training
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Sprinting and marathon running are at opposite ends of the athletic spectrum, as one lasts a matter of seconds and the other goes on for hours. While sprinters must maximize every muscle movement to improve their speed, marathon runners must maximize these movements for endurance. As a result, these very different athletes have separate and distinct training methods.
Starting a Sprint
Sprinters must get off to a good start to remain competitive in a race, which means practicing how quickly they react to the starting gun. Stand facing a rope ladder on the ground with your feet shoulder width apart. On your coach's signal, jump into the air and place one foot in the ladder. Then, jump out of the ladder on your coach's next signal. As you improve, jump inside the ladder with one foot when your coach calls an even number and outside the ladder on an odd number. This drill helps sprinters to process information quickly, leading to faster times out of the starting blocks.
A sprinter must focus on technique, since fractions of seconds come between first and last place in a race. In training, sprinters practice their technique by continually drilling their stride length, arm movements and body posture. Sprinters try to stay as tall as possible during the race, as leaning too far can compromise their balance. Begin by going through the technical movements of your stride in slow motion and then gradually increase the pace until you reach full speed.
Marathon Lactate Threshold
Marathon runners focus on endurance-related factors, such as their lactate threshold, the amount of time that their muscles can tolerate aerobic energy production. The best way to improve this threshold is to run at or near your current threshold for about one hour. In doing so, lactic acid starts to form in your blood but not so rapidly that it stops you from training. Running at this pace allows your body to acclimatize to having higher lactate levels in your blood and muscles. The anaerobic or lactate threshold increases as the body adjusts to increased production of lactic acid.
Running a marathon means athletes must leave energy for the end of the race or run the risk of not finishing. Your running economy is your ability to save energy for later parts of the race. Drills for maximizing your running economy include incorporating hills, long intervals and exhaustive distances. These methods help your body learn how to conserve energy by using the most efficient combination of muscle fibers in a race. They also teach you about how it feels to run out of energy, allowing you to make adjustments if you feel it happening.
- "Training for Speed, Agility and Quickness"; Lee Brown, et al.; 2005
- "USA Track and Field Coaching Manual"; USA Track and Field; 1999
- "Advanced Marathoning"; Peter Pfitzinger, et al.; 2008
- Chris McGrath/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images