While the half-mile, or 800-meter, sprint conjures up images of pro athletes on the track, this acute, intense form of exercise has numerous benefits for the average health-conscious person. When performed regularly, sprint intervals improve circulatory function, increase overall endurance and speed, heighten your body's fat-burning potential and promote muscle growth via the release of growth hormones. So even if you don't plan on competing at the track, blasting past the half-mile milestone will prove worth the effort.
Work your way up to the 800-meter sprint by building sprint endurance. Start by practicing 100-meter, 200-meter or 400-meter sprints, depending on your current level of endurance. Incorporate sprints into your regular running regimen. For instance, sprint for the last minute of your run, working your way up to a minute-and-a-half sprint and then a two-minute sprint. Alternatively, sprint in intervals, alternating running at your usual pace and sprinting in evenly timed increments.
Practice sprinting drills three to five times weekly. Level 4 Performance Coach Brian Mackenzie recommends drills such as walking on your toes and then heels for 20 to 30 meters, performing one five-rep set each of leg cycles and leg drives for 10 to 20 seconds on each leg and performing skips and side stride crossovers for 20 to 30 meters each. Mackenzie also recommends one set each of elasticity-encouraging plyometric drills such as speed hops, chest passes and run outs.
Warm up before your half-mile sprint. Jog or walk briskly for 10 minutes to encourage a full range of motion, increase muscle control and prepare your body to engage in sprints. Hydrate by drinking 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before your sprint and another 8 ounces during your warm-up.
Practice proper form during your 800-meter sprint. Keep your back straight, shoulders and hands relaxed and your core engaged. Lock your eyes straight ahead and hold your head in line with your spine. Hold your arms so they form a 90-degree angle at the elbows, driving back and forward with your elbows as you run. Proper form helps you improve speed and prevent fatigue
Cool down after your sprint. Take a brisk walk for about 10 minutes after completing your half-mile. Perform lower-body flexibility stretches or dynamic stretches such as lunges and bicycles to encourage healthy blood flow. A proper cooldown helps prevent muscle stiffness and injury and eases your body back into its natural operating state after intense exercise. Rehydrate with another 8 ounces of water or a high-protein, high-carbohydrate recovery drink after your sprint.
- If you have a regular strength-training regimen, add exercises that build the muscles essential to sprinting. Squats, deadlifts, lunges and their many variations build the quads, calves and hamstrings, all of which are essential to sprinting.
- Don't worry too much about speed, especially if you're not competing. Your personal top - but still controlled - speed is your sprint. Exercise intensity is relative - even if your sprint isn't as fast as an Olympian's, you'll still reap the health benefits of the exercise. Stick with your sprint program and you'll get faster over time, even as you respect the limits of your body.