How to time your own sprint workouts

Posted on September 29, 2014

(Last Updated On: March 28, 2016)

I recently added some sprinting drills back into my workout routine. Because of my sporadic OCD, and all the benefits tracking your workouts has over not, I ran into a common conundrum, “How do I keep track of these workouts?”

Because most people are going to be doing sprint work outside, with no one able to time them, sprint work offers a unique challenge compared to tracking other workouts, like weight training.

Back in the day I would keep a stopwatch in my hand, press start when I took off, and the best I could, hit stop when I hit my distance.

For longer distance work this is perfectly fine. With sprint work it’s less than ideal though. With sprint work you’re often dealing with trying to improve in tenths of a second. One’s finger is not going to be consistently this accurate. Not to mention there’s potential bias because you’re timing yourself. (You hit the stop sooner than you should in the hopes of a faster time.) When you’re running miles and miles you don’t care about being this accurate.

I’ve been playing with a different idea of mine recently; trying to take advantage of the new toys we have compared to when I used to do this.

I went to the app store of my iPhone, typed in “speedometer” and started looking around. My idea was holding my phone is no big deal when running. It’d be like holding a stopwatch. However, instead of measuring the duration it took me to cover a certain distance, I would instead measure the speed I reached in that distance. When we’re dealing with true “speed distances,” we’re talking about 60 meters or less. That is, a human will reach top speed by 60 meters, can maybe hold this top speed for another 20 meters, before starting to tail off.

If we’re doing sprint work, say 60 meter runs, knowing your top speed over 60 meters can provide a way to keep track of your workouts i.e. are you getting faster? If you hit a higher top speed, similar to lifting a greater amount of weight, you’ve almost assuredly run that distance in a faster time.

(The distance does matter though. If you hit a higher top speed over say 200 meters, you haven’t guaranteed yourself a faster time. You may have hit a higher top speed but not held it as long. In runs of ~60 meters or less, we take out the “speed endurance” aspect of things.)

I downloaded the Speedometer app by Stanislav Dvoychenko (the name will appear in the app store) precisely because it provided a “Max Speed” measurement, and was the most accurate of all the ones I saw. Other apps would only measure to the first place where this one went to the tenths. Others would do “51 mph” where this one would do “51.4 mph.”

Speedometer App IN STORE

Speedometer App Screenshot

As I run I hold the phone in my hand. After I run the 60 meters, I look at my phone and it tells me what my max speed of that “trip” was.

If you’re not running at a track you can also use the app to help you measure your distance; making sure you’re running the correct amount. Place a marker at your start point. Start a new trip, walk and look at the phone at the same time. When it hits 0.06m you know you’re at 60 meters. Place a second marker down, start a new trip, and perform your sprint work. I simply make a new “trip” for each set of runs. Five sets of 60 meters = five trips.

The only drawback I’ve found is while the app to seems to be accurate pretty consistently -sometimes it throws me for a loop- in absolute terms I don’t believe it is. I don’t think the thing was made to deal with the G forces that accompany arm swing. In my experience the speeds I’ve been reaching have been too high. Either that, or I’m coming for you Usain Bolt. That said, it’s like a scale which consistently measures too heavy. As long as it’s consistent, you have a good sense of how you’re doing.

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Posted in: Miscellaneous