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26-01-2022 | Fiets Magazine

How to improve your sprint training

The following question was submitted in Fiets Magazine: 'I did a sprint training session the other day where I had to do 15-second sprints. I thought it would be a really hard workout beforehand but after doing it I didn't think it would be so bad. I was not really tired of the sprints. Is this correct? Or do you have tips to do them better?"

Stefan van Klink (talent coach at the Dutch Cycling Federation): A good question! And a very common dilemma. Sprint training is quite difficult to do if you have little experience with it. How tiring a sprint training should be, depends to a large extent on the length of the sprint. But you can also learn to expend more energy in a short period of time.

The theory

First of all, it is important to understand what exactly you are doing. During exercise you use a lot of energy, which comes from different energy systems. Where one energy system is very useful to sustain an effort for a long time, another helps to release energy quickly. Obviously, for a sprint, the latter is the case. When it comes to sprinting, two energy systems are important: anaerobic a-lactic and anaerobic lactic. The a-lactic system works very quickly and you use that at the start of a sprint. However, this system is burned out within a few seconds. On average you can use this system for about seven to ten seconds. If you perform sprints of five seconds, you use nothing but the a-lactic system. Typical for this system is that your legs do not acidify, in contrast to the lactic system. The anaerobic lactic system can be maintained a little longer, up to a maximum of two minutes. In this system your legs will acidify considerably. If you do a sprint of fifteen, twenty or thirty seconds, you will use both systems. You use the a-lactic system for the first few seconds and as soon as you switch to the lactic system your legs start to acidify. Because of this, you will often start to feel your legs in a sprint after about ten seconds.

The execution

The challenge of sprint training, however, often lies in getting all that energy out. If you're used to doing mainly endurance sports, then getting enough energy into a sprint can take some getting used to. The best tip for this is: practice. In order to perform a good sprint training, focus is very important. Think carefully about where you want to perform the sprints. Personally, I like to pick a road where I will do all the sprints and in between driving back and forth on that road. That helps you to focus on the sprints and not to be busy with the route as well.

When doing this kind of training, make sure you do a sprint training session which lasts an hour, and not an hour cycling with some sprints along the way. So take sufficient rest in between. Your average speed in this training is totally irrelevant. During the sprints, the challenge is to get the most out of yourself every time. Try to empty yourself completely in one sprint. This will be difficult in the beginning, but the more you practice it, the better it will be. What goes along with this is rest. After a sprint, oblige yourself to keep your legs still for at least a few seconds and catch your breath before you continue. Getting the right feeling for a sprint takes time and patience, but the more often you do it, the better it will feel. If you can, after an hour of sprint training, you could be passed out on the sofa.

This article was produced in collaboration with Fiets Magazine.

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