First, be sure to catch up Brendo's opening article: Ultimate Speed Ep #1 - The Basics
I’m a numbers guy. Give me some stats and the maths behind it and I’ll be quite content reading over the numbers and hypothesising for hours. To me, data should inform our decisions, not dictate them, but it will always help paint a picture of what is happening. When it comes to sprinting you can have two types of data: qualitative and quantitative. Not an earth shattering revelation by any means, but in this article let’s have a look at how you get this data, what it contributes, and, most importantly, what it tells us.
The most common request I get in terms of sprinting from Ultimate players is “can you help me with sprint technique?” Absolutely I can… but I have to watch you run, a lot. 1,2, even 3 hours of technique drills, cues, demonstrations and lectures won’t get you the technique of Asafa Powell or Yohan Blake. If you can recall learning to throw a flick, especially if like me, you weren’t the best at it, it’s very easy to fall back into old habits if someone isn’t there constantly correcting your technique and giving you feedback. So while qualitative feedback is great and will help performance by tightening up your technique, it can be impractical if you don’t have a designated, regular and experienced coach watching you run all the time.
This brings us to quantitative data. Look out because this may blow your mind… invest in a stopwatch!!! Not a watch, not a fitbit, not a new phone app, a stopwatch. I’m going to talk about the practicality first just to bring you over from the dark side:
You won’t be as worried about dropping a stopwatch as you might that shiny new iPhone X
You can start and stop the stopwatch with it in one hand meaning you can be in a normal running position
They are cheap and you can take them everywhere easily!
Great, now that you have organised to get a stopwatch, here’s why it helps on the track. Imagine you throw a backhand but the second it leaves your hand you have no idea of the flight path or where the disc lands. Not very helpful if you want to know the success of the throw right? It’s the same with running. If I go out and run 6 reps of 100m, I might feel like I’ve worked hard but have I really? Have I pushed myself as hard as I should have? Did I push myself too hard on an early rep? What if I was just tired from work? I would have felt like I ran hard but that’s just a “feeling”.
Enter the trusty stopwatch.
Assuming you have a target time set for the distance that you’re running (which you always should), timing yourself with the stopwatch is one of the best ways to ensure you are fully accountable for your work rate in a session. I know that if my target is to run 12 seconds for each 100m and I run 14 seconds for my first rep, I’m not working hard enough. Or if I’ve smashed out an 11.3s I’m either in great shape or I’m going to be cooked before the end of the session. By recording your times regularly and gathering that quantitative data, it can help show where your strengths and weaknesses in terms of your running ability lie (i.e. acceleration, speed endurance, repeat sprint ability all those key areas from the previous article). It can help inform you of the intensity that you are working at mid-session. It can help track improvements. It can also help track in-session and in-season fatigue and help avoid over-use or fatigue related injuries. If you are going to do sprint sessions, a stopwatch is your best and worst friend. Embrace it and hold yourself accountable to the stopwatch.