How often should you sprint?

Posted Ella Villas Articles

On Wednesday this week, I did 4 all-out, 20 second sprints on the beach.

That doesn’t sound like a lot, but even 4 sprints can do a lot to help with anaerobic (without oxygen) conditioning, fat burning, and overall health and fitness levels.

Back in the paleolithic days, it is likely that all out sprinting was a part of life. Not on a daily basis, but occassionally, humans had to 1) run from larger, more powerful animals, and 2) run to catch prey.

This was more often short sprinting rather than running for long distances.

But as many top endurance athletes have discovered over recent years (even ultra runners), these sprints can help you not only kick it into that “fast” gear a little more often- and even allowing you to cut down on the amount or distance you are putting in with your workouts.

(If you want to dig more into the details of sprint training to help endurance, take a listen to this interview I did a while back with Brian MacKenzie of Crossfit Endurance)

So how does this apply to swimming and/or triathlon?

As you may have noticed, swimming is quite different than running or cycling in terms of the things you need to do to improve.

Running form is super important, but it’s no where near as hard to learn as swim form (mainly due to the environment and all the moving parts swimming entails).

Cycling also has it’s share of things to learn from a technique perspective.

But the gains you make in swimming vs the other sports from focusing on technique aren’t even close! Focusing on swim technique is the biggest “bang for your buck”, especially if you’re at the beginner-intermediate level, but even if you’re at the Michael Phelps level!

Okay back to sprinting and how to use it for swimming and triathlon.

Even though you are training in 3 disciplines, I wouldn’t try to sprint more than about once a week in your training. That means all 3 combined. But, I would sprint 1-2x per week overall.

So for your swimming training, assuming you really have your technique dialed in, it’s wonderful to do sprints once a week! However, if you’ve already done some running sprints, and/or biking sprints, I would consider holding off.

Balance things out.

Maybe this week is your swim sprint week. Next week is running, and the following is cycling. You can get away with a little more than this, but sprinting taxes your body, so you will need several days of rest (at minimum) in between sprinting workouts.

And remember, start SMALL! One 25m sprint might be enough the first time. Build up to 4-8 25m sprints, and take plenty of rest in between.

Sprints make it fun, and allow you to get in great shape with less time expended in the water.

It’s another piece of the puzzle, but if you’re at the beginning stages of your swim journey, don’t worry about sprinting just yet!

Just keep working on befriending the water. 🙂

Have a nice weekend!