This may sound a little weird, but … last week I figured out that I can sprint.
Wait, I can explain.
I was never a very good sprinter when I was a kid, nor was I a very good long-distance runner. I hated doing the mile in gym, and the shuttle run was the only tolerable running even, but that’s because it was more about dexterity than speed. But now I know why I was so horrible, and why I hated it so much.
I’d never bothered to figure out that running isn’t just jogging fast.
Think for a moment about the physiological differences between walking, jogging, sprinting, and running. Na´vely, it’s just legs working harder. But if you break down the stride, it’s much more complex than that:
Walking is a controlled series of forward falls. Your legs are straight, knees locked when your feet hit the ground. Your center of gravity is highest when your legs are together, both directly under you, and lowest when your legs are furthest apart. One foot is on the ground at all times, with both on the ground at the point of widest stride.
Jogging is jumping up and down with a forward component of motion. Your legs are almost never straight, and if you lock your knees it’s going to do serious damage when your feet hit the ground. Your center of gravity is highest when your legs are furthest apart — in mid-leap — and lowest when your legs are together under you, just about to jump again. You only have a foot on the ground about half of the time. Your legs are acting as springs, bending at the ankle and knee to compress and store energy, and flexing to release that energy.
- Sprinting & Running
Running is jogging with as much of the vertical component removed as possible — fighting gravity is a waste of energy. Your legs are never straight, and again your knees are never locked. Your center of gravity, and your height, should be pretty much constant. You still only have one foot on the ground, but the time between one foot leaving and the other foot falling is significantly reduced. Your legs still have a springy component to keep the impact from being jarring, but now they are much more fixed and much more like pistons — pushing you forward instead of up.
It had never really occurred to me before last week how much of a difference there is between jogging and running. I had always lumped them into the same group. But as I’ve been jogging for a little more than 8 months now, I guess I’ve actually learned something. I jog at about 6mph, but I’ve gotten the treadmill up to 11mph for short periods. Last week I decided to see what I could do flat out, this time on concrete instead of a treadmill.
It was eye-opening.
It’s a weird feeling, sprinting. It’s very … mechanical. Optimized. Jogging can get mechanical in a droning on and on for hours kind of way — like driving cross-country. The mind kindof turns off and the feet take over. Sprinting is like doing a lap around a Formula 1 racetrack — it’s much more mechanical in a concentration and precision kindof way.
Granted, I can only run flat out for about 30 seconds, or about 150m. Once I do it, I’m back to walking speed for the next 15 minutes or so. I tried a second sprint after a 10 minute break a few nights ago and ended up with mutinous quads in both legs. I won’t be doing a 7 minute mile any time soon.
But I can sprint!