Get Fit Faster With 30-Second Sprints

man sprinting while running in the woods

Verywell

If you want to get fit faster, consider adding sprint training to your schedule. The high-intensity effort of a 30-second sprint workout can give you impressive results. Sprint workouts are great for people who don't have time for long, steady, endurance exercise but want the same (or better) cardiovascular benefits.

Overview

Although many exercise guidelines recommend up to 60 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week, most people fail to get that much exercise for many reasons, including lack of time and lack of results. If you're short on time, but want to improve your heart health and overall fitness, sprint workouts might be a perfect solution.

Evidence shows that short, high-intensity sprint workouts improve aerobic capacity and endurance in about half the time of traditional endurance exercise.

Sprint Workout Science

Sprint training can be used effectively by both elite athletes and recreational exercisers. A recent study on sprint training with cyclists showed greater performance improvements in less time when using high-intensity sprint training in replacement of usual speed workouts.

These short bouts of intense exercise (not unlike interval training) improve muscle health and performance comparable to several weeks of traditional endurance training. The femoral muscles of the high-intensity trained group also showed positive changes in metabolic markers, like K+ concentrate and lactate accumulation.

Other findings have shown that short, high-intensity exercise burns more calories than the same amount of moderate-level cardio exercise.

Preparation

Sprint workouts can be done while running, swimming, cycling, or almost any other cardiovascular exercise. The following precautions should be considered before adding sprint training to your schedule.

  • Safety: Because this is a high-intensity exercise it is recommended that you check with your doctor and review the physical activity readiness questionnaire (PAR-Q) before beginning a sprint workout.
  • Base fitness: It's also important to have a strong base of fitness in the activity you are using for sprints. To build a base of fitness, follow the 10 percent rule, and gradually increase your training volume.
  • Frequency: Because of the intensity of these workouts, most athletes shouldn't do sprint work more than three times a week.
  • Muscle soreness. Launching into a sprint program may be difficult or cause delayed onset muscle soreness if you haven't done much training prior to this workout. We recommend having about 3 to 4 weeks of base fitness before beginning.

Step-by-Step Guide

Before your sprint workout, be sure to complete a thorough warm-up. Injuries are more likely if your body isn't properly prepared.

Perform sprint workout routines three times a week. Allow at least one to two days of rest or another easy exercise between sprint workouts.

  • Warmup. Before sprints, warm up thoroughly with easy exercise for 5-10 minutes. Perform the same exercise you will be using for your sprints.
  • Sprint. Perform your first sprint at about 60 percent max intensity. If you feel any muscle tightness or joint pain, back off and continue to warm up.
  • Recover. Recover for 2 minutes by slowing to a comfortable pace, but keep moving. This can be an easy jog or a walk, depending on your fitness.
  • Sprint. Perform your next sprint at about 80 percent max intensity.
  • Recover. Recover for 2 minutes.
  • Sprint. Perform the remainder of your sprints at 100 percent max intensity or all-out efforts of 30 seconds. You should be pushing yourself to the max for each one.
  • Recover. Recover for 2 to 4 minutes after each sprint to allow your breathing and heart rate to slow to the point that you can hold a conversation without gasping.
  • Repeat. Repeat the sprint/recovery routine 4-8 times depending on your level and ability. For your first workout, you will want to stop at 4 sprints. That's fine. Try to build up to 8.

Schedule

The goal is to do this workout six times in two weeks, then back off to twice a week for maintenance for six to eight weeks before you change your workout. On the days following your sprint workout, do easier runs of 20-30 minutes to help recover but maintain your mileage.

If you like your results, you can continue with this routine longer. But it's a good idea to vary your workouts every few months, and throughout the year. Feel free to modify the routine as you like; see for yourself what works best for you.

Sprint workouts are intense, and you may need to take a break and perform some longer slow workouts for a while

A Word From Verywell

Sprint training offers an option for those who don't have much time for exercise, but still, want to improve their cardiovascular system. While this type of training is demanding and requires a high level of motivation, it can lead to dramatic improvements in a short period of time.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Vollaard NBJ, Metcalfe RS. Research into the health benefits of sprint interval training should focus on protocols with fewer and shorter sprints. Sports Med. 2017;47(12):2443-2451. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0727-x

  2. Gunnarsson TP, Christensen PM, Thomassen M, Nielsen LR, Bangsbo J. Effect of intensified training on muscle ion kinetics, fatigue development, and repeated short-term performance in endurance-trained cyclists. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013;305(7):R811-821. doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00467.2012