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“I’d just run away”- Are you fit enough to escape?

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Written by: Greg Ellifritz

 

I find it endlessly fascinating to listen to my students’ thoughts about the “best” course of action to take in a crisis situation.  Especially when teaching female students, I hear a one very common response.  Whenever I ask the students how they would respond to a challenging and dangerous situation, they commonly state: “I’d just run away.”  The other women in the class invariably nod their heads in agreement.

 

Is running away really the best course of action?  It depends on your abilities and who’s attacking you.

 

In nearly every class I teach, when I ask for solutions for specific criminal attack scenarios, running away is one of the first choices the students consider.  If the potential victim is extremely fast and wearing appropriate shoes, running may be a great option.  It won’t be as successful if the potential victim is slow, overweight, injured, wearing high heels, or trying to run on slippery or icy ground.  Which one of those descriptions best describes your individual situation?   I think every person should make an HONEST assessment of his or her abilities before relying on running away as their prime strategy in the event of an attack.

 

Look at the statistics.  Violent criminals tend to be males between the ages of 16 and 25.  Can you outrun the average college-aged male?  I train almost every day, but I don’t think I can.  And I’m certain that the average 50-year old overweight woman doesn’t stand a chance.  As I near my fifties, I have to admit that I’ve slowed down a little bit.  I bet most of you have too.

 

If you look like this (and wear shoes like hers), don’t delude yourself by thinking you can run away from most violent criminals

 

When is the last time you actually ran sprints?  Doing 20 minutes on the gym’s StairMaster or elliptical machine just isn’t the same as running as fast as you can to save your own life.  The skills and fitness you might obtain from the machines in the gym don’t prepare you for an all-out sprint.  If running is going to be your primary defense strategy, you should be running for exercise!  And by “running”, I don’t mean a slow paced 5K.  You will want to make your training relevant.  Sprinting repeat intervals of between 50 and 400 meters is what you will need to do if you want to get away from a violent criminal.

 

I ask again, when is the last time you sprinted in your workout?

 

This man may have good endurance, but do you think he could escape an attacker? The workouts you do should be specific to your goals. Running a marathon is an impressive feat, but marathon runners may not have the speed they need to outrun a criminal.

 

If it has been a while, I think it’s time for you to start adding some sprints into your fitness routine.  Besides helping you escape from a life-threatening predator, sprinting provides numerous health benefits. It improves cardiovascular fitness, adds bone density, builds muscle, and burns more fat better than just about any other form of exercise.  In fact, there are many recent studies (like THIS ONE) that indicate short duration, ultra- high intensity full body exercise is equal to longer duration aerobic work for burning calories and increasing cardiovascular health and even better at building muscle.

 

Before you start trying to re-live your high school football glory days, I have a few cautions…

 

If you haven’t run sprints for a long time, you’ll need to build up speed gradually.  Sprinting is very demanding on the muscles.  If you start out going really fast, you are likely to tear a muscle or two.  I remember taking a police physical fitness instructor class at our state police academy.  That class was required in order to teach physical fitness topics in any recruit training academy.  Most of us students were fairly fit, but not many of us regularly ran sprints.  When we sprinted one day in class, eight out of the 25 students pulled hamstring muscles.

 

The author conducting entry-level police fitness testing. Most cops don’t sprint enough!

 

Don’t do that!  Being laid up and unable to walk doesn’t help you win a fight against a criminal attacker.  Take it slow.  I would suggest hill walking or light jogging until you feel able to run non-stop for 400 meters (1/4 mile).  When you can do that, start working on the program I’ve outlined below.

 

Before each workout walk quickly or jog for a few minutes to get your muscles warm and ready for action.  Take each joint through its full range of motion, but don’t spend a long time stretching in a static manner.  Holding stretches for more than 20 seconds has been shown to temporarily reduce the muscle’s ability to maximally contract for several minutes after the stretch is completed.  You’ll need all the contraction you can muster!  On each workout, slowly increase the intensity of your sprints.  The first sprint should be about 80% of your max speed for the given distance.  Increase your pace to 90% on the second sprint and then go all out for the remainder.

 

The sprinting program I outline below is designed to increase your ability to run away from an attacker and make your body more cardiovascularly prepared for the demands of an all-out fight.  This is a general program designed for a reasonably healthy person who already does some weekly exercise.  If you don’t work out or if you are an elite athlete, you may need to adjust the workout schedule to fit your needs.

 

The exercise program should be done three times per week (labeled below as Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3).  Ideally, you should have at least one day’s rest between each workout, but you can adjust the schedule to best fit your needs.  Here it is:

 

Day One- Long Sprint Day

Today we will be focusing on running slightly longer sprints in order to build anerobic and aerobic capacity.  Each sprint will be 200 meters long (1/2 a lap on a high school track).  Don’t jog!  Run these as fast as you can!

 

Week 1- 3 x 200 meter sprints- Rest 2 minutes between each sprint

Week 2- 4 x 200 meter sprints- Rest 2 minutes between each sprint

Week 3- 5 x 200 meter sprints- Rest 2 minutes between each sprint

Week 4- 3 x 200 meter sprints- Rest 90 seconds between each sprint

Week 5- 4 x 200 meter sprints- Rest 90 seconds between each sprint

Week 6- 5 x 200 meter sprints- Rest 90 seconds between each sprint

Week 7- 3 x 200 meter sprints- Rest 1 minute between each sprint

Week 8- 4 x 200 meter sprints- Rest 1 minute between each sprint

 

 

Day Two- Speed Day

Today you will be working on shorter distance sprints at all out intensity (after proper warm up).  The rest break will be as long as it takes to walk back to the starting line.  Run your sprint, walk back, and then immediately move in to your next sprint.

 

Week 1- 8 x 30 meter sprints

Week 2- 8 x 40 meter sprints

Week 3- 8 x 50 meter sprints

Week 4- 8 x 60 meter sprints

Week 5- 8 x 70 meter sprints

Week 6- 8 x 80 meter sprints

Week 7- 8 x 90 meter sprints

Week 8- 8 x 100 meter sprints

 

Day Three- Combining speed and strength.

On this day, you will combine your sprints with additional exercises.  In a fight for your life, you will need to have both speed and muscular strength.  This workout increases both.  You will use two exercises, the squat and the pushup, in addition to the sprints.  If you can’t perform either of these exercises, feel free to substitute another, more appropriate, exercise of your choice.

 

Week 1-     Sprint 50 meters/Perform 5 pushups/Rest 30 seconds

Sprint 50 meters/Perform 5 squats/Rest 30 seconds

Repeat this cycle 3 times

 

Week 2-   Sprint 50 meters/Perform 10 pushups/Rest 30 seconds

Sprint 50 meters/Perform 10 squats/Rest 30 seconds

Repeat this cycle 3 times

 

Week 3-    Sprint 50 meters/Perform 15 pushups/Rest 30 seconds

Sprint 50 meters/Perform 15 squats/Rest 30 seconds

Repeat this cycle 3 times

 

Week 4-   Sprint 50 meters/Perform 20 pushups/Rest 30 seconds

Sprint 50 meters/Perform 20 squats/Rest 30 seconds

Repeat this cycle 3 times

 

Week 5- Sprint 50 meters/Perform 10 Pushups and 10 Squats/Rest 30 seconds

Repeat this cycle for a total of 5 times

 

Week 6- Sprint 50 meters/Perform 12 Pushups and 12 Squats/Rest 30 seconds

Repeat this cycle for a total of 5 times

 

Week 7- Sprint 50 meters/Perform 12 Pushups and 12 Squats/Rest 30 seconds

Repeat this cycle for a total of 6 times

 

Week 8- Sprint 50 meters/Perform 15 Pushups and 15 Squats/Rest 30 seconds

Repeat this cycle for a total of 5 times

 

 

There you have it!  An eight-week program that will not only better prepare you for combat, but it will likely make you a healthier and more fit person as well.  Give it a try!  The only thing you have to lose is some belly fat!

 

What if I can’t sprint?

 

Undoubtedly, some of my readers will complain that they can’t complete these workouts for a variety of reasons.  Some will be “too old”.  Some will be ‘sick”.  Some will have injuries.  Some just don’t want to work that hard!  It’s OK.  If you can’t or won’t do the workout, you won’t offend me.  It’s your life.  Whatever makes you happy is fine by me.  I wish all my readers nothing but the best.

 

With that said, if you don’t want to sprint, at least be honest with yourself.  Running won’t likely be your best option if you are attacked.  You’d best have an alternate plan.  Learn to recognize danger signs and pre-attack indicators quickly so that you can avoid a confrontation.  If that doesn’t work, plan to use a weapon, your superior fighting skills, or your brain to get yourself to safety.  Just don’t delude yourself by thinking you’ll get there by running faster than your attacker.

 

 

 

 

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