How to Run Like a Cheetah

How to Run Like a Cheetah

- Rachel Sovka

Sprinting is all about maximum level of intensity. Which means when you’re training for that kind of sport, it’s not about how far or long you run for, it’s about how fast you can get up to speed, and how long you can stay there. Michael Bawol explains a unique way to train in low volume and low distance for the high intensity sport.

First of all, the work to rest ratio is very different from other sports, “I sprint three days a week, in sessions of about an hour and a half each,” Mike says. Describing what training looks like for him, he actually only performs his sport for about seven seconds, doing that about six times.

“You can’t just sprint at full capacity all day,” Mike explains, if we go for any distance jog, that’s usually exercising for recovery not for improvement.”. Mike tells me that the true nature of a sprinter is lazy. That’s right, the strong, muscular, fastest people on the planet; they’re the laziest of us all.

“Like a cheetah spends all day napping,” Mike explains, “except for a few explosive moments, sprinters are good at conserving energy until they need to use it.”. Mike describes himself as not especially gifted at endurance, that his body thrives on anaerobic activity, and frankly, he finds any kind of lengthy run to be boring.

Instead, in Mike’s training, he does a lot of:

- Vertical jumps: these indicate measurable power and speed

- Sprint testing: using timing gates on 60 metre sprint, to get up to speed in the first 30 metres

- Med ball throws: throwing shotput overhead, measured by distance thrown and weight of the ball.

“When these things all improve, you will improve at your sport.” It’s that simple. Mike says his workout of choice has to be squat weights because that’s where he loves to push himself, and gains confidence in his progress. Hamstrings, among the muscles affected by squats, are very important to sprinters and often the most commonly injured. Mike says he’s been blessed with a relatively injury-free career. But that hasn’t stopped him from learning the lessons that injuries often teach us.

“I think they teach you about real life,” Mike says, “because you spend so much time and hard work in training and in a single moment all that hard work could be gone.”. He’s seen athletes that he’s coached experience horrible injuries and come back with resilience, and others who have had to throw in the towel. That’s why coaching is tough, because you’re just as invested in the athlete’s success, but it’s not in your control anymore,” he says. For Mike, coaching is a good way to still get the competitive elements he craved as an athlete even though he’s not competing.

Training for competitions is of course very different from just staying in shape, and the transition can be difficult for many athletes. Mike appears to have done this very well by being acutely aware of his goals.

“I think I had a good perspective of the transition,” he says; he knew how far he wanted to go, and learned from the example of others like Simon Whitfield.

“I remember hearing that he really thrives on being alone because he spent so much time training by himself,” Mike says, “so when he retired he felt like he was always around people too much.”

Being conscious of the way training affects your social and mental stamina is key to optimal performance according to Mike, because your sport and your workout routine become a consistent pillar of your life and who you are, even if that means lazy.

That’s why being a cheetah is the prime position for training; go hard, rest up, and take a nap when you need one because when it’s time to run: sprint.

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