Why Sprint

Why Sprint

Last week in class, we asked everyone when was the last time they sprinted – ran all out for a short distance. There were lots of nervous giggles and admissions that for most it had been decades.

After that Younger Games, they would have a different answer if asked the same question because they sprinted. Sure, older persons will not sprint with the power, grace, and speed of Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix in the picture below, but that is not the goal. Most will not run as fast as this 60-year-old woman.

Who cares? What older people gain from sprinting is more important than any fame and glory.

sprinting olympian allisyn felix

Running as fast as you can for a short distance has numerous health benefits:

  • You develop stability, mobility, and balance in your feet, all crucial to your long term ability to walk. Remember a fast gait (walking) speed is associated both with living independently and longevity. Sprinting makes for a fast gait.
  • Sprinting releases growth hormones that preserve and strengthen muscles (especially the fast twitch fibers), thus slowing muscle losses (sarcopenia) due to aging.
  • There are huge cardiovascular benefits. The deep breathing promotes elasticity in the lungs and blood vessels. Cardiac muscle becomes stronger and more efficient.
  • Sprinting brings metabolic benefits – like lower blood pressure, improved blood sugar control, fat burning – in a fraction of the time it takes jogging or cycling. It’s not a coincidence that the most shapely, tapered, and muscled bodies in a track meet belong to the sprinters.

If you haven’t sprinted in years, you must first get re-conditioned to do it. Don’t just take off running because you’ll be too sore the next day and risk injury. Go slowly, over weeks. Your body needs to adapt. (Note: If you have heart issues, get your provider’s ok to try sprinting.)

To re-learn sprinting, go somewhere with a level surface. Do a good warm up. Walk/jog quickly for a short distance – 10 to 20 yards – really concentrating on rolling off the heels up onto the toes for a strong push-off. Lift your knees high. Reach out further and further with the leading foot, steadily lengthening the stride as you gradually pick up the pace. Go fast enough you get a little winded, then pause for however long you need to catch your breath. Do this 5 times, then 6 the next time, building up to 10. You never need to go further than 30-40 yards or as hard as you can, unless you want to. And a sprint routine once a week is plenty.

Don’t worry about your actual time over a certain distance. Just run hard. Like we say in class, imagine yourself crossing the street and your see there’s a garbage truck bearing down on you being driven by a kid texting on his cell phone.

After a few weeks, you’ll find you feel stronger and more competent and energetic in day-to-day physical activities.

Beyond all the measurable benefits, sprinting is just plain fun. In some primal way, our bodies love it.







The Art of the Fall

The Art of the Fall: How to Trip, Topple, Slip or Fall Safely

COCC registration is now open for CBF’s “The Art of the Fall” workshop on Oct. 10 from  9 – 10:30 am. Register here  for course number 49237. Fee is $39.

See more details beneath this picture.


Learn and practice proven techniques used by elite athletes to fall without injury. Falling is an occupational risk for active people. Your bike skids, your ski slips, you step onto a patch of ice walking, snag a tree root hiking, or trip on a rake doing yard work and down you go.

Although many falls are unavoidable, physical preparation for and familiarity with safe falling techniques can mean the difference between getting up to resume your activity with only minor cuts and bruises or getting transported to the hospital with serious, lifestyle-altering injuries.

You’ll learn to fold and roll and if, when and how to use your hands/arms to guide or buffer a fall. Practice specific exercises to condition shoulders, torso and hips to control a fall and reduce impact upon landing.

If you are apprehensive about falling, not to worry – practice will be on mats and pads, and focus on basic, practical movements, starting from the ground up. No flipping or somersaults or anything requiring advanced athletic skills.

The workshop will be a at Smith Martial Arts, 100 SE Bridgeford Blvd.

Note: This workshop is not recommended for persons with osteoporosis or other serious spinal issues without physician’s approval.

Look, Ma, No Hands

Look, Ma, No Hands

Getting up from the floor to a standing position might sound like modest fitness goal, but it’s not. Actually, over the long-term, it’s a matter of life and death.

Among gerontologists, the ability to get up without using the aid of your hands is a good predictor of longevity.


The leg muscles and hip muscles are the most powerful in your body and play a key role in maintaining balance. When they are not strong and fully functional, you have to use your hands to help push yourself up. Research shows that the more you need to do this, the sooner you will experience true disability that require walkers, wheel chairs and assisted living.

A surprising number of Boomers are rightly concerned to find themselves in this situation. Over years of sedentary living and lack of physically challenging activity, their legs have atrophied. To get up, they need to roll onto all fours, get one knee up, then push off the knee or floor to rise. Or must reach for something to hold onto for balance.

The good news is that leg strength can be restored with patience and persistence. Muscles get stronger when they are used, but it doesn’t happen over night. It requires deliberately working those muscles 2-3 times a week.

During the first 6 weeks of a good strength building regimen, people start to see some signs of progress, maybe feel stronger and less wobbly as they get up. However, those early improvements are mostly the result of re-establishing central nervous system control over the motor units that coordinate muscle contractions.

Due to hormonal changes as we age, measurable improvement in actual muscle strength takes several months. But it happens if the leg and hip muscles are stressed, rested, then stressed again over weeks and months by doing basics like squats and lunges.

Here’s a good article from Prevention magazine showing exercises to restore and preserve strength in the legs and hips. Anyone who’s participated in the Younger Games will recognize them and the numerous variations we use.

But beyond standard exercises, in every Younger Games, we deliberately get up from the floor multiple times, many times more than other gyms, especially with age 50+ exercisers. It’s tiring, but we don’t care.

We’re working towards an important goal: No hands.