If you didn’t happen to know, the lovely Charlie (of the Runner Beans) and I have been running a Wednesday evening sprint sessions in association with Sweaty Betty, which we’ve aptly named Sweaty Speed Sessions (I’m also known as @SpeedyBecsRun on Twitter).
Now admittedly, I’ve never been much of a sprinter. As you can tell from my previous posts, I prefer to go the distance and plod along on some really loooooong and hilly courses. I do, however, understand that tempo running, sprints, Fartlek, speed work or as I like to technically call it “speeding up and slowing down” is one of the best ways to improve your overall performance. If you mix up your training, you’ll definitely benefit and you never know, you may discover you prefer track work to long distances. And when it comes to running (and life perhaps), I’m of the opinion that you never know what you like until you try it.
The Sweaty Speed Sessions are for women who want to try out their hand at sprinting shorter distances and so we’ve tailored our sessions around this. Charlie has done a brilliant account of the sessions week by week, which you can read here and here. Instead of repeating what has already been said, I want to talk about three of the games that I’ve included as part of the warm-up to get the heart pumping and bodies moving over the past three weeks before we start the timed sprints:
1. The train
Everyone lines up in single file with a small gap of space between them and set off at a sustainable pace. The aim of the game is for the person at the end of the line to run as fast as they can to the front. Sounds pretty simple huh? Well ask the girls who joined us at the Sweaty Speed Sessions and they’ll tell you that sprinting to the front of the line is knackering. It’s up to you (or me) what shape you decide to tell the runners to make but I’ve tried a square, which means the girls really have to speed up when navigating the corners. The train works for mixed ability groups because it’s when the runners sprint individually that they push themselves to the max.
2. Meet in the middle
I have no idea what the proper name for this game is but before you start, make sure you have an even number of runners. You then set the field up in a diamond-shape (kind of like a baseball pitch) using cones, shoes or any inanimate object that won’t trip the runners up! You then ask the runners to line up in pairs one after the other. They then both run around the side of the shape of the diamond, one taking the left-hand side, one taking the right-hand side, until they meet, high-five and then turn around to run back to where they came from (along the left-hand/right-hand sides of the shape of the diamond). There are many variations on this game, including asking them to sprint until they meet, sprint back to the start, cross-over when the runners meet, or turn it into a 1 on 1 game, where they both sprint as fast as they can cutting down the middle of the diamond. I also ask the runners in the lines to keep moving by lightly jogging to keep their heart rate up. Try and pair up the runners according to ability but this game is still fun if you’re unable to do that.
3. Cone twist
The runners can blame PTMollie for this fun and team-building game. Find a space to work in and place an equal number of cones in the space (half of them standing up, half of them knocked over). Divide your runners into two equal teams and assign each team a task: one team ensures all the cones while the other team do the opposition and make sure all the cones are knocked over. Tell them that they’ll be playing this for a certain period of time (I went for three minutes) and then say go. This is a great warm-up game that tests both agility and speed. What’s more, it has a bit of a chuckle factor. You should have heard us yesterday giggling away. And the runners are also so focused on either knocking the cones over or picking them up that they’re not thinking about it as speed work or even a workout.
Now, I’ve told you about the games I like to play as a warm-up, it’s over to you to tell me what you think makes a good running game. Let me know in the comments section.