Windsprints (sharpeners)

Windsprints are shorter anaerobic interval sessions introduced when it is still necessary to do some anaerobic training but advisable to drop the volume and increase the intensity. They are used for sharpening and becoming accustomed to changes in pace in racing.

“If you run 20×400 metres, you will be at it a long time and you will become very tired; but if you run five laps of the track by sprinting 50 metres in every 100m metres, floating the other 50, to give you 20 sharp sprints in all, you will be extremely tired in your running muscles, but will have taken only 7 minutes to do so. Sharpening puts the knife-edge on anaerobic training capacity without pulling down the good condition you have carefully built up.” – Arthur Lydiard, Running with Lydiard

Your legs will become very tired after this workout but your whole body will not feel as run down by the anaerobic stress as it would be doing  a longer fast session such as intervals. Windsprints are introduced during the Coordination phase and continue into racing season.

Instruction: 

This workout is best done on a track. In the coordination phase you will employ a workout of 10-12x100m (100/100s) which is reduced to 12-16x50m (50/50s) during the taper phase.

100/100s
  1. Warm-up well as you would for a race.
  2. Run easy from the start-line on the track and when you hit the straight after 100m begin to accelerate so that by the middle of the straight you are sprinting. As you come to the end of the straight, stop sprinting and let your momentum allow you to “float” around the bend. At the start of the next straight sprint again.
  3. Repeat this twelve times (6 laps) or 2400m.
  4. Cool down
50/50s

Exactly the same as 100/100 but over 50m with 50m float.

  1. Warm-up well as you would for a race.
  2. Mark the track every 50 metres with a piece of clothing or other marker.
  3. Run easy from the start-line on the track and sprint when you hit the 50 metre marker. Slow down quickly when you hit the next marker and continue to accelerate and decelerate every 50 metres until you have completed 4 laps.
  4. Cool down

Important points:

  • The volume is not the objective – getting yourself very, very tired quickly with speed is.
  • Use the number of repetitions as a guideline only. Some people can handle more, some less.
  • Stop the work out when your legs become wobbly, you are out of breath and you can no longer hold good form.
  • If done correctly, one mile of this is quite enough for most runners!

Rate of perceived effort:

6-7 (85-90% VO2max)

Experienced competitors/elites:

Some seasoned and very well-conditioned competitors may see the need to perform very fast anaerobic work at 800m and 1500m pace during this phase (such as 4x400m workouts) rather than windsprints. This carries greater risk and should be used sparingly and carefull.

Lydiard often entered his long and middle-distance athletes into one sprint race per week, on the same day as the less important competition or time trial training session, and experienced competitors can mimic this practice during the Coordination phase to gain many of the same benefits derived from the wind sprints.

Adaptation:

  • Anaerobic
  • Speed
  • Ability to recover from a surge without slowing down overall pace
  • These put a razor sharp knife edge on your running while maintaining your anaerobic capacity development and without pulling your aerobic condition down.

Skill:

  • Relaxation while running fast
  • Efficiency at high speeds
  • Tactical ability to changes paces and throw in surges

Biggest mistakes:

  • Prolonging the recovery by walking or jogging too slowly
  • Not running hard enough during the sprints
  • Feeling as if you can do them all day. In this case your intensity is too low.
  • Struggling to complete the workout and risking injury.

Terrain:

Athletics tracks are best suited for this workout but sports pitches and grassy areas in parks are good alternatives.

Variations

Sports pitches: run this work-out on a flat straight area such as a soccer or GAA pitch. Determine a turn-around roughly 50m or so away from both ends of 100m. Sprint the length of the field, slow over the next 50m, float around the turn-around point and sprint when you hit the beginning of the 100m stretch. Repeat this 12 times.

Parts of the workout descriptions are adapted from BreakThrough Running with permission.

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