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Sprinters need short bursts of energy, not long endurance capacity.
The ability to sprint takes a special mindset and physical strength. Sprinters need to focus their concentration and energy on an activity that lasts less than two minutes. Activities lasting less than two minutes are considered anaerobic, so do not rely on aerobic capacity. However, the higher a sprinter's aerobic capacity, the greater their ability to produce repeat sprints.
All track and field events, including sprints, require oxygen. Some of this oxygen is taken in and used immediately such as during distance runs. These are considered aerobic activities. The athlete breathes in to take in oxygen, and the oxygen is transported to sustain working muscles. By contrast, sprints are performed so fast that an athlete's body cannot bring in the oxygen fast enough to help with the activity. By the time the oxygen passes through the lungs and heart and out to the muscles, the sprint is over.
Anaerobic activities, such as sprints, take place in the absence of oxygen that is inhaled and circulated. Instead, the cells convert the muscle's storage of oxygen into usable energy. This process occurs quickly and improves as the athlete's anaerobic capacity improves. The more a sprinter trains, the more efficient the anaerobic system becomes.
A sprinter does not need aerobic capacity. Instead, a sprinter needs anaerobic capacity. The longest sprint is 400 meters, or once around a standard track, which is a quick race and depends on the oxygen stores in the muscles. The muscles are not contracting for an endurance race, which requires aerobic capacity.
Even though a sprinter does not need aerobic capacity to perform the event, sprinters benefit from enhanced aerobic capacity. When a sprinter inhales deeply at the end of a race, the oxygen helps remove lactic acid, which is a waste product of anaerobic energy conversion. The faster the sprinter recovers, the sooner he can sprint again, so an improved aerobic system reduces the need for a lengthy recovery.