Sprinting improves cardiovascular health.

I used to jog for years, decades. I started jogging in earnest in the ‘70s – started running 5K (or equivalent) road races on weekends. In the ‘80s, I ran several days a week in New Orleans – a Wednesday afternoon 2-mile race at Audubon Park. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday races were common most months of the year. Many times, I would run two races in one day.

I did not run to win the races; I was beyond that capability – too many young studs out there running with me. I ran for cardiovascular exercise because I genuinely enjoyed it. I would run during the summers and take a running sabbatical during the colder months.

I was introduced to fartleks in the ‘90s. A fartlek is a sprint – you run as fast as you can for as long as you can, then recover. That cycle is repeated many times. I would incorporate fartleks into my running schedule – an afternoon run after work or a run during lunch – about one or maybe two times a week.

I would pick a starting point and an ending point and run between those two points as fast as I possibly could. Your heart rate goes up and then comes down as you recover – walk slowly while you catch your breath and measure your pulse. The timing of your pulse is extremely critical.

I would stretch and then begin a jog for about a minute or so. Upon finishing my warmup, I would pick my starting point and begin saying to myself, ‘zero’ every time my left foot hits the ground. I start this mental process about six or eight feet before I begin sprinting. As soon as I reach my starting point, I crank up my speed and count every time my left foot hits the ground.

My first fartlek is usually 30 steps of my left foot. After the 30th step, I measured my pulse rate. I would then wait for it to fall below 120 beats/minute before I started the next fartlek.

The next fartlek was  40 steps and the one after that was 50 steps. Each time I finished sprinting I measured my pulse rate and then walked slowly measuring my pulse rate every minute thereafter. I have an upper limit that is naturally achieved based on weather (temperature, humidity, wind, etc.) and my endurance. My pulse rate rarely went over 170 beats/minute.

Early in the season, my upper pulse rate measured between 150 and 160 beats/minute. A measure of running (and health) performance is to have a pulse rate below 120 beats/minute in less than a minute.

As the season progressed and the temperature ramped up to around 100 degrees, the readings varied little. By that time, I had built up my endurance and I started extending my running times to 60-70 steps or more. If it was a good day and I felt good towards the end of the run my last fartlek was 100 steps on my left foot.

Why is fartlek better for you? A jog will keep your heart rate constant –whether it is at 150 or more beats/minute. A fartlek causes your heart to race upward and then it comes back down as to return to your normal pace or begin walking (or even just stopping). You are cycling your heart – it puts a lot of stress on that muscle.

In less than a couple of miles, you can get an exceptional workout. Sprinting at full speed is less damaging to your knees. I have never had a knee injury while sprinting, but I have had knee and other leg-related injuries over the years with the constant grind of jogging.

My objective is to get the best cardiovascular exercise in minimal time allowed. Why go out and run five, six, or eight or ten miles and come back and have no real time to do other things? At one point in my life, I was running 8+ miles after work routinely during the week just to keep in shape.

Your heart can handle the stress. You get a better workout doing fartleks along or incorporating them into the long run compared to simple long-distance jogging.

Other options include identifying a place to start running faster ahead of you – a light pole, a bush, a park bench (anything), and then crank up your speed to a comfortable fast pace – 80% or higher of your fastest effort. Identify the endpoint to stop running at full speed or to begin walking.

Monitor your heart rate. I want my recovery time to be less than one minute to drop from 150-160 (or greater) beats/minute to under 120 beats/minute. Recovery rate varies on many factors – wind, shade, humidity, temperature, etc.

I have a 100-yard course marked off in front of my home that I use nowadays for my sprints. My reason for running sprints is the same reason – cardiovascular exercise. I have changed from incorporating fartleks in my long-distance running to running sprints exclusively.

I run ten to twelve sprints – each one faster than the previous. In fifteen or twenty minutes, my exercise session is over, and I am back to work at home or in my office. Running sprints can be done between rain showers if the weather is threatening a longer run.

Why is it good for health and longevity? Health and longevity are controlled by human growth hormone. You had huge amounts created daily when you were under ten years of age. “Human growth” is the goal of the human growth hormone. It prepares your body to grow.

After you pass your teen-years, the production of human growth hormone slows down. By the time you reach your 70s and 80s your production might be around 10% of what it was when you were ten years of age. Extended fasting and high-intensity interval training are two ways to increase the body’s production of human growth hormone.

Bringing your human growth hormone levels up that of your teens and 20s keeps a master controller in charge of the operations in your body. Without a controller, chaos begins to take over as many other hormones and body functions begin to slow down with age.

If you want a strong heart, a healthy body, and a lower risk of age-related diseases, you might consider fartleks or sprints. You might say that you cannot do those today because of whatever. You can increase your heart rate on an inclined treadmill or bicycle.

The goal is to increase heart rate for a short time (seconds – not minutes) and allow your heart rate to return to a nominal level – under 120 beats/minute. As with everything in life, moderation is preferred to start anything new. Always consult your physician if you are on any prescription medicines, have joint issues, or have not done any cardiovascular exercise in a while.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin – RedOLaughlin.com


2 Responses

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