To get fast, you have to train fast. The problem is how do you stay healthy during speed training? That means training at pretty high intensities. The problem with training at high intensities is that you increase your chances of being injured. As a sprinter, I struggled a lot with this and had many hamstring and back injuries as a result and how I developed a passion for injury prevention. These injuries were a blessing in disguise because they forced me to come up with strategies to succeed and I want to pass these on to you.
Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to be faster for your sport only to get hurt and have to sit out. I know a lot of people who shy away from speed training due to a fear of getting hurt. The problem with this approach is that you end up getting left behind. Being fast can impress coaches, and open new opportunities.
Turn it Down a Notch With Speed Training
When I was at Iowa State, I suffered what seemed like nonstop injuries my freshman and sophomore years; I realized quickly I had to do things differently. My coach and I concluded that it was best for me to stop doing speed work at 100%.
I would start doing my speed work at 95%. I know this does not sound like a big deal but it is a problem and here is why. You can run even faster at 95% then 100% because you’re not trying to run fast. At 95% you are just letting it come to you, and it puts you at less risk of injury with more bang for your buck.
Early in my career, I would say a prayer not to blow my hamstring running at 100%, but 95% gave me the confidence to stay healthy. I was able to improve from running the 100m dash in 10. 46 to running it in 10.13 by using this technique. The legendary Micheal Johnson did the same thing in his early career to help prevent injuries.
Get More Therapy During Speed Training
You can use apps like Kho Health to ask healthcare providers questions and get connected with the best healthcare providers in the area. It is essential that you get adjustments, and massages and whatever else your body needs when it needs it. These things help to keep the body working correctly. If your body is not working correctly when you walk, it will not work right when you sprint.
An athlete will spend so much money on joining sports teams, travel, gear, personal coaches but will not spend money to stay healthy. It makes no sense at all. Your body is your toolkit. Who would want surgery from a doctor with rusty tools? How can you perform with a rusty body then? Health is always wealth.
Focus On Technique With Speed Training
A lot of athletes get hurt running or sprinting, and they assume that it is because they are not strong enough. The reality is that technology plays a massive role in sprinting injuries.
Are you running with good posture?
Are you attacking the ground with proper footstrikes and using dorsiflexion?
Is your neck in line with your spine?
Are their twisting and other forms of wasted motion?
There are a million things you can do wrong, but there are some fundamentals that you don’t want to get wrong. The best thing you can do is watch this video.
One of the easiest ways to learn how to run better is by watching the best sprinters in the world. Then video tape yourself and compare. Now, you don’t want to go overboard here and feel like you need to film every run. Just get a few per practice so you can review them later.
Once you start working on your technique, you want to also make sure you slow things down to about 90% when making significant changes. The reason is that you are experimenting and the worst thing you can do is an experiment with something your body is not used to at max effort. When you make changes in your form, you’re putting your body in new positions which are good, but you want to give your body a chance to adjust.
To Stay Healthy During Speed Training Strengthen The Posterior Chain
The most commonly injured area are the hamstring, back, and hips. All of these places can be assisted when it comes to injury if you work on your posterior chain. I spent most of my college career working on keeping my glutes, back and hamstrings strong.
Best Weight Room Exercises
Isometric hamstring work
Eccentric hamstring work
Barbell Glute Bridges
The above movements were life changing and my bread and butter. It starts with the glutes though. When the glutes are not strong or firing properly, the hamstrings and back pick up the slack, and that’s what causes them to overwork and strain. The glutes can be massive and dense muscles so make sure you put them to work.
Quality Over Quantity
The last way to make sure you stay healthy through your speed work is to always aim for getting in quality runs. For example, when you have a run that feels amazing and feels like the run for of your life, shut it down. You rarely get two game-changing runs in one practice. Know when to live to fight another day. I have seen so many athletes get hurt by doing one run too many. By not knowing when to stop.
The objective here is to run fast not just put in work. If you notice the quality of runs dropping and you’re getting slower, you have to shut the practice down. It is your bodies way of trying to tell you that you have nothing left in the tank. For speed to be effective, it is not about grinding through at slower and slower speeds. That is how you get slow and hurt.