Sprinting for Body Composition

I recently spent some time visiting family in the Los Angeles area. The weather was awesome. And when I say awesome, I mean I was ready to pack up my stuff and move to California immediately. The sun, the mountains, the ocean… it was more than appealing after a particularly cold and snowy winter in the Northeast. Ultimately, rationality kicked in and I’ve once again accepted that I’ll likely never live in a warm-weather climate.

Disappointment aside, there are certainly benefits to living in an area with four seasons. Besides the yearly occurrence of the greatest season (Fall), the emergence of Spring brings with it an excitement that people who never have to shovel their cars out of two feet of snow will understand.

From a fitness perspective, I enjoy the cyclical nature of training that comes from the different seasons. In the winter I can focus entirely on lifting big and lifting often. I’m not getting outside on a regular basis to hike, bike, walk, run, etc, so my energies are focused entirely on lifting. Once Spring hits, the volume of lifting drops slightly as I begin to incorporate outdoor activities into my daily life. Where-as I might lift on 4-5 days a week in the Winter, come Spring and Summer I will often times drop that down to 2-3 days of lifts with 2-3 days of outdoor activities.

Last Summer I incorporated biking into my regular fitness regimen. I’ve never been a cyclist, and still don’t consider myself one, but do enjoy the speed and distance that can be covered on a bike as compared to on foot. My office is 5.5 miles down a wooded bike path from my home, which lends itself very well to cycling sprints. I’m kind of an on/off guy, so there isn’t any cruise control on my bike. Additionally, I have a Trek District which is a single-speed, belt-drive bike. I love the single speed because it forces me to vary my effort based on terrain. I have to really pound on the pedals to get up steep hills and then find myself without much pedaling options once I get going fast down a hill. I ride to/from work and time both rides, which allows me to keep track of progress over time.

In addition to cycling, I plan on incorporating sprinting into my training this year as well. Reading Dan John’s book “Never Let Go” last Winter, there was a passage that has stuck with me and has been nagging in the back of my mind ever since. To paraphrase (and hopefully not butch it), Dan points out that if you go to a track meet you’ll never see a person with excessive body fat running a sub 50 second 400 meter. By contrast, you’d be hard-pressed to spend any amount of time on a bike path in the summer and not witness throngs of overweight people jogging and riding their bikes, clad in expensive gear, and looking like they might die.

I haven’t run a 400 meter sprint for time since high school (nearly 15 years ago). I’m sure it will be a painful and shaming experience, but it’ll be great to get a sense of just how slow I’ve become. If I remember right, as a sophomore in high school I ran just over a 50 second 400 at 5’10” and around 150lbs. With basically no sprinting in the last few years, and at 6’ 195lbs, I’m guessing I’ll be lucky to hit 1:05 on my first go of it. If I can break :55 by the end of Summer I’ll be a happy man.