Sled Training Improves Sprint Times
The first thing that needs to be known is that there are many theories about how sprinting affects performance. Some say it doesn’t affect performance at all while others claim that it does. What’s certain is that sprinting improves your speed, power, endurance and strength.
You will see that these qualities make up the foundation of your athletic ability.
There are two types of sprinting:
Light Sled Sprints – These are done with a light sled or similar device. They improve your speed and endurance but not your strength. Heavy Sled Sprints – These are done with a heavy sled or similar device.
They improve both your speed and strength but not your endurance. Light Sled Sprints are usually used for beginners because they’re easy to learn and use. Heavy Sled Sprints are usually used by athletes because they require more skill and practice.
As you might expect, lighter sleds have been around longer than heavier ones. However, heavy sleds were originally developed for military purposes so they’ve been restricted from being mass produced. There was a time when heavy sleds could only be purchased through military surplus stores or specialty sporting goods shops.
The most common are:
Metal – Most metal sleds weigh around 40 pounds. They’re easy to make, durable and not too expensive. Most people prefer the classic look of a metal sled over other materials.
Due to their weight they’re usually used for heavy sled sprints. Plastic – Unlike metal sleds, plastic sleds are quite a bit cheaper and lighter in weight. While this would seem ideal for sprinting, they don’t hold up well under rough use. Most plastic sleds weigh around 20 pounds. Composite – Composite sleds are a new type of material that’s designed to decrease the friction of the sled across the ground. This allows you to pull less weight at faster speeds. They’re usually half the weight of metal sleds but they can be quite expensive.
In recent years, people have come up with their own ideas for what can be used as a sled. Some of these are quite inventive while others are impractical in many ways. While there isn’t a “best” material, it’s best to use one that is suited for your ability and environment.
Most sleds have a flat bottom with ropes along the sides for you to hold. Make sure you don’t wear any rings or other jewelry while using a sled as they could get caught on the rope. In addition, you should avoid going through deep snow as it can cause the sled to weigh too much and make it harder to pull.
Some people enjoy collecting different types of sleds for their own enjoyment. Others prefer to make their own sleds from scratch. This lets them customize their sled for their own personal preferences.
Building a sled requires roughly the same amount of time and money as buying one, so it’s all a matter of personal preference.
You’ll need to find a good location for sprinting that’s relatively flat and clear of obstacles. Depending on where you live, this may be more or less difficult. Most people prefer to run near roads or highways for safety reasons.
If there aren’t any roads nearby, make sure you stay in a group and have a cellphone in case of an emergency.
Once you’ve found your preferred sprinting location, it’s time to start training.
Due to the nature of this sport, there aren’t many facilities dedicated to it. In fact, most facilities are modified golf courses. It’s possible to practice on a frozen lake or pond but it can be dangerous as you’ll need to have someone watch you from afar since falling into the water can lead to life-threatening consequences in cold weather.
One of the most common ways to train is to start by walking the distance you intend to sprint. Once you’re accustomed to the distance, start running from a stop and continue doing this until you can run the entire distance of your sprint. This may take several weeks to months depending on your physical condition and dedication.
It’s important to start off slow for the first few sessions. Jog or walk for a few minutes before your sprint. This will loosen up your legs and allow you to get into the right mindset.
While training, it’s important you pay attention to your physical condition and surroundings. This is especially true with distances greater than 800 meters as your body will require long periods of rest in between each one. You don’t want to push yourself too hard and develop a chest infection or other medical conditions.
Once you’re ready to compete in an official race, you’ll have to sign up for one. Like most racing events, the further ahead of time you sign up, the more expensive it is. Signing up on the day of the event is the most expensive.
Most races have an entry fee around $50 and go up from there. If you want to ensure you have a spot, it’s best to get your entry as soon as possible.
It’s also important to pick the right race for you and your current skill level. It’s over 70 meters high.
Safety is very important in this sport. Make sure you have the right equipment for your sled. Most quality sleds will cost around $100 and will last several years with periodic maintenance.
Making sure you have a comfortable yet secure seat will make all the difference. Keep in mind that the lighter the sled, the faster it will go but also less stable. It’s best to find a good balance between weight and speed.
When it comes to other safety gear, most racers prefer to wear helmets, knee and elbow pads and gloves. This is all dependent on the individual and how comfortable they are with their sled. As long as you stay safe and have fun, that’s all that matters!
It’s always a good idea to give yourself plenty of time to get to the race, especially if this is your first time. You never know how traffic will be or if you’ll have car issues. It’s best to arrive a few hours early so you have time to park, check-in and get yourself ready.
If this is your first time, don’t worry about being the last one to the start line. Most people will be in the same boat as you and will be nervous as well. Just make sure when they call your group to start that you get into position.
To start, everyone will line up at the start line with their sleds. On the start, you’ll begin by running alongside your sled for a few steps before jumping on. After a few steps, you should be able to jump onto the sled and begin going down the hill.
You’ll want to keep your weight as far back as you can without falling off the back. To turn, lean into the turn like you’re riding a motorcycle. Keep your head up and gaze where you want to go.
Safety First: This is one time when you don’t want to worry about helmets or for that matter proper safety gear at all. Most people don’t wear a helmet and only a few wear any other sort of protection. However, as this is a competition, you can’t be afraid to take risks either.
Keep in mind that you still want to be safe though.
Before going down the track for the first time, you might want to practice on how to make the sled move. It’s recommended that you go down a few times by yourself before the race so you have a good feel of how your sled works.
To start, you’ll want to make sure your sled is facing the right way. Since this is a one-way track, you can’t go the wrong way. The lines in the snow on the ground will help you see which direction you should be heading.
Once your ready, you’ll want to get a good start so you can pick up speed as soon as possible. This is usually done by having someone else give you a hard push. As you go down the slope, watch out for any bumps or hollows in the snow as they will send you flying into the air.
Uphills will usually be marked by blue trees and other markings. You’ll have to use your brakes a lot going up hill so you don’t overshoot your mark and end up in a high-speed crash at the bottom of the slope.
As you get further into the track, there will be chances to choose which way you go. There might be signs pointing you in the right direction or most of the time, it’s just common sense and following what everyone else is doing. If you do somehow get separated from the group, try to wait for them at the bottom of the hill and follow them for safety in numbers.
At the bottom of the hill, there will usually be a meeting spot so everyone can regroup and find out where they ended up. You can compare times if you want or just head back up the hill for another run.
If you are still having fun, then try to stay around for the final standings. Most races have a prize ceremony either right after the race or sometime later at a local watering hole.
In some cases, you’ll be able to win a t-shirt or medal for your efforts. If you do well, be sure to ask if there is a prize and how to collect it!
Remember that you only get one shot at this so make it count!
At the bottom of the hill, you’ll see a large area with a bunch of people at the base of the hill. There are two roped off sections full of people and in front of each section are groups of people wearing the same colored shirts.
Looking at the hill, you can see that each section has a slightly different color of snow. One is almost completely brown while the other is a normal snow color. There are also other markings like ski tracks and circles in the snow.
Ahead of you is a large group of people that have formed a blockade. They aren’t doing anything though and several are just standing around chatting with each other.
To the side, you see a row of tents with banners hanging in front advertising different stores. There are also several people holding those little flags that direct traffic around construction sites.
A short distance away, you can see another tent that says Welcome Race Participants on a large sign in front of it.
Beyond that, there are rows of bleachers that have been set up and beyond those is a ski lift that looks like it hasn’t been used in years.
To the right, there is a small building set off by itself with a large parking lot in front of it.
If you haven’t already started down the hill, now would be the time to do it!
“Hey Darla, we are supposed to go over by the blue section!” you call back to her as you near the bottom of the hill.
Darla comes running up beside you as you approach the crowd in front of you. A man in a blue jacket steps forward holding a microphone. He is middle-aged and on the heavy side, but seems to be in pretty good shape.
A cloud of steam comes out of his mouth with every word he says in the cold air.
Sources & references used in this article:
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Effects of resisted sled towing on sprint kinematics in field-sport athletes by RG Lockie, AJ Murphy, CD Spinks – The Journal of Strength & …, 2003 – researchgate.net
The effect of towing a range of relative resistances on sprint performance by A Murray, TC Aitchison, G Ross… – … of Sports Sciences, 2005 – Taylor & Francis
Interrelationships between different loads in resisted sprints, half-squat 1 RM and kinematic variables in trained athletes by MA Martínez-Valencia, JM Gonzalez-Rave… – … of sport science, 2014 – Taylor & Francis
Post activation potentiation in North American high school football players by G Tano, A Bishop, J Berning, KJ Adams… – J Sports Sci, 2016 – davidpublisher.com
Mixed training methods: effects of combining resisted sprints or plyometrics with optimum power loads on sprint and agility performance in professional soccer … by I Loturco, R Kobal, K Kitamura, CC Cal Abad… – Frontiers in …, 2017 – frontiersin.org