PLEASE NOTE: We are undergoing a name change. Unleashed Training is now Sprint Ninja. We still offer high quality strength and conditioning along with personal training, with our specialty being sprint training.

Sprint Coaching and Strength & Conditioning
Face to face Coaching & Online Programs

Sprint Ninja Coaching Services - Click Here

Claim Your FREE Session

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

Please enter the word that you see below.


Psychology of Speed

Here we will look at the psychology of speed and the methods I use myself and with the athletes that I train.

The psychology of speed, an often underestimated aspect of the development of sprinting speed. There is a lot of information around regarding the physical components of sprint training, but psychology only gets a small mention by most coaches, scientists and even athletes.

As a coach I believe that psychology plays a massive role and it could be one of the most important factors of sprinting potential. But maybe not in the way that you think.

Perception is Everything

We can see from race results at the very top level that the highest level of sprinters have a specific set of genetics. Yes, this is controversial, but I don’t give a shit. I’m interested in peak athletic potential, not political correctness.

Most Olympic finalists in the 100m and 200m over the past 4 decades have been of West African extraction. This is a fact. Rarely do we see caucasians, East Africans, Asians or any other nationality dominating the sprints. But could this be entirely attributed to genetics? Or is it possible that perception plays a role?

Through research we have discovered genetic advantages that are more frequent in West Africans. One example is the ACTN-3 gene, which is associated with greater percentage of fast twitch muscle fibres, to look at it in basic terms. West Africans, such as those from America and Jamaica, have a greater expression of this gene in a larger percentage of the population. So it’s only natural that there will be a larger number of champion sprinters from this gene pool.

But wait, are West Africans the only race to have a dominant ACTN-3 gene? No, they are not. They are more likely to have it in a greater percentage of the population, but they are not the only people to have it. Every race of people have this gene, but some nationalities just have less people to choose from. So yes, there are white people, Asians etc that have the genetics to dominate the sprint events.

So why then are the events always dominated by Jamaicans, African Americans etc? Perception. We have been led to believe that no one else has a chance at winning a 100m final. So less resources are dedicated to sprinters that are not of West African extraction.

So how does this relate outside of the whole nationality thing? Perception and what you fully believe will often be a reality. You can literally think your way out of reaching your maximum sprinting potential.

Think about the four-minute mile. Yes, I know it’s not a sprint event, but it’s a good example of perception. Before the mile had been run in under four minutes it was apparently impossible. No one had done it before, so it was deemed impossible. And because experts decided it was impossible no one had managed to achieve it for a very long time. Then along comes Roger Bannister. He actually believed it could be done. He trained differently to every other mile runner of the time. His weekly running volume was very low by comparison, yet was incredibly intense. In his mind the mile could be run in under four minutes, it’s just that no one was training for it properly.

After Roger had beaten that barrier there were a flood of others doing it. Did humans suddenly evolve to become faster? Or was it perception? It was a belief that it was actually possible.

Lesson # 1: 100% belief in your potential.

As far as perception goes, Usain Bolt absolutely believes that he can break world records. He believed it before he did it. As a result, he followed through and smashed it by a mile. There was no question in his mind whether he would do it or not.

On the flipside, Asafa Powell choked in numerous big races, including Olympic finals. Powell has the physical ability. In fact he is one of the most physically gifted sprinters ever. But he has a lot of doubt in his mind about whether or not he is fast enough to bring home the gold.

It is quite often belief and perception that makes the difference between a champion and someone that is moderately good.

In the last post on the psychology of speed we looked at belief. Believing 100% in one’s ability to produce a certain level of performance has a major impact on the end result. Belief and certainty of outcome accounts for possibly the largest percentage of psychological performance enhancement.

Here we look at focus. Can you actually “will” yourself to sprint faster? It has been suggested by athletes and coaches that intense focus and the intense decision to run 100m in under 10 seconds will eventually lead to that outcome. Is it really possible? No one really knows, because how do you measure that? The person that runs 100m in a world record time is seen to have done so purely through genetics and superior training. However what if they focused all of their attention on sprinting at that pace?

There is evidence to suggest that genetics are only partially predetermined. Many factors effect a person’s DNA, one of which is thought. Thought itself has been shown to make a big impact on the cellular level. If this is indeed true then thought can impact performance through the manipulation of both structural anatomy and functional physiology. But how intense is that thought? Through my own experience thought that is distracted and inconsistent has very little impact on anything. However if that thought is intensely focused, consistent and is progressively improved then it has a cumulative effect.


We’ve all seen the self-help gurus that promote visualisation in order to achieve goals. But it has become a bit of a buzz word. Picture yourself driving the brand new mercedes you want and eventually you will have it. Sound familiar? It’s a little deeper than that. Thought will only make an impact if it is consistent, intensely focused and developed over time.

Sprinting is a maximal effort activity. Running a marathon is a different beast. You can push yourself to run that little bit faster and shave a bit of time off. That’s because a marathon involves gradual pacing. It’s not a maximal effort. Sprinting though requires 100% effort for a very short time. As a result it is not as simple as just pushing yourself a little harder. Your body first must be capable of travelling faster. In order for your body to be able to travel faster your mind must be able to first conceive of the idea. If your mind has never visualised it and pre-constructed it, it’s impossible to get the body to actually do it. The body is limited by protective mechanisms that limit physical output for our own safety. But it’s a little over-protective, so it limits us more than necessary.

I’m sure you have seen the stories of average people performing major feats of strength in an emergency situation. Like the mother that lifts a heavy car off her crushed child. The body was always capable of this task, it was the mind and nervous system that wouldn’t allow it to happen unless in case of emergency.

How can you use visualisation to sprint faster?

  • Visualisation must be a consistent daily process. Visualisation should be used as a stand-alone activity and during training or competition. Practice visualisation daily, preferably several times per day.
  • Visualise yourself in the first person (through your own eyes) as well as through the eyes of others (watching yourself from the outside).
  • Be dramatic and exaggerate. Visualise yourself running 100m at the speed of a cheetah. In your mind you should consistently see yourself running at impossible speeds.
  • Visualisation must be intensely focused. Don’t just loosely picture yourself sprinting fast. You need to believe it and you need to convince your brain you are capable of it. Consistent practice will allow you to be better focused and have more vivid and life-like visualisations. Literally aim to convince yourself you can run at this exaggerated, impossible pace.


Your intentions are what determine your actions and abilities. A goal or aim is generally a realistic wish or want to run a certain time that is already within your reach. You might set a goal of running a 4.60 in the 40 yard dash. That’s a goal, but it is only something to aim for. It will not rewire your brain to actually be able to do it. An intent on the other hand is a distinct intention to do something extraordinary.

How can you use intent to sprint faster? How can you will yourself to sprint at a blazing speed?

  • Set an unrealistic, superhuman speed. Focus on running at that speed.
  • As you set up for a sprint focus intently on sprinting at your exaggerated intent. Will yourself to run at that speed. Put all of your focus on running at that pace. Convince yourself that it’s possible.
  • As you sprint “will” your body to push as fast as humanly possible. Intensely “intend” on running at the exaggerated speed.

It sounds rather simple, but it works. Visualisation and intent, as described here, sound outrageous, but give it time. Consistent practice of the techniques mentioned above will convince your mind that it is possible. Your mind tells your body what to do. The more consistent you are and the more intense the focus, the greater chance you have at reaching the upper limits of your own sprinting speed potential.

Claim Your FREE Session

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

Please enter the word that you see below.


Return to our home page from psychology of speed.

Sydney Sprint Coach Blog
The Sydney Sprint Coach blog will keep you up to date with all changes made to subscribe now to keep yourself updated.
Sydney Personal Training
Sydney personal training with Unleashed Training: Unleashed Training offers Sydney personal training services in the Merrylands, Granville, Parramatta and Guildford area.
About Sprint Ninja
Sprint Ninja is a fitness and physical performance business utilising an effective set of systems and training principles, specialising in sprinting performance...
About Chris Lyons
Chris Lyons is an experienced strength and conditioning coach, having trained athletes of all ages and levels since 2002. Chris specialises in coaching athletes for....
Evolve Training System
The EVOLVE training system is a complete system of sprint training in all its forms....
Sprint Workouts - Sprinting WOD
The sprint workouts section is designed not as a complete training program in itself, but as a section providing sprint workouts...
Sprint Training
Sprint training is a form of training applicable across a large range of domains for both the individual and the athlete....
Super Human Strength
Super human strength is something all athletes and most of the general population would love to achieve. ...
Power Training
Power training is often a very confused and confusing component of training, for both the general public and among coaches/trainers. ..
Psychology of Speed
The psychology of speed, an often underestimated aspect of the development of sprinting speed...
Ideal Fitness Program
The ideal fitness program is something people have been searching for ever since we discovered that regular and planned training can change the....
Training Principles
Training principles are the universally applicable guidelines that should be met in order to achieve a given training objective...
Training Objectives
This is a comprehensive set of guidelines, training objectives and an overall plan to be applied to all training programs...
Ten Components of Fitness
The ten components of fitness are the aspects of physical development that UNLEASHED Training aims to facilitate. Most programmes focus on only one or a small number of these fitness components...
Definition of Fitness
The definition of fitness is so difficult to pin down. I have searched for a definition for years, ever since I first started my studies in fitness, strength and conditioning. I have witnessed...
Unleashed Challenges - Official Unleashed Training Fitness testing and ranking.
Welcome to the UNLEASHED Challenges section. Here you will find benchmark challenges and fitness tests based on the UNLEASHED Training methods....
Body Weight Exercises
The following is a list of body weight exercises used by Unleashed Training as part of the Evolve fitness program. This page includes just simple text descriptions of each exercise...
Body Weight Workouts
Welcome to the UNLEASHED body weight workouts. Here you will find workouts of all kinds in a mostly randomised manner....
Ideal Strength Training Program
The ideal strength training program is difficult to find. It is difficult because, in terms of any kind of physical conditioning...
Minimalist Fitness Programs
Minimalist fitness programs are simplified fitness programs that can be used for total development of one or more components of fitness. ..
Art of Movement
The art of movement is something you will see discussed in many texts, in one way or another. This is a concept that was visited, studied and developed hundreds and even thousands of years ago...
Strength Articles
Welcome to the strength articles section. Here you will find articles relating to strength training in all its forms....
Sport and Athletic Conditioning Articles
Welcome to the sport and athletic conditioning articles section. Here you will find articles pertaining to specific sports and athletic events....
Weight Loss Articles
Welcome to the weight loss articles section. Here you will find articles and information specifically targeted at weight loss/fat loss....
Military Fitness Articles
Welcome to the military fitness articles section. Here you will find articles and information that applies to military fitness....
General Fitness Articles
Welcome to the general fitness articles section. Here you will find articles and information that applies to fitness as a whole but does not fall into other categories....
Sport and Exercise Science Articles
Welcome to the sport and exercise science articles section. Here you will find articles and information that explains the science behind fitness and performance training, how the body works....
Nutritional Guidelines - The Unleashed Training nutritional prescription
The following are the basic nutritional guidelines and recommendations for Unleashed Training. It is written in plain language and is easy for you to understand.....
Paleo Diet
The paleo diet is a recently popular way of eating. It is gaining traction in the health and fitness world and is especially popular with fitness movements such as CrossFit.
Boosting Testosterone
Boosting testosterone and other hormonal functions is a somewhat obscure topic to all but the hardcore bodybuilder or strength athlete. Everyone likes to focus on training hard....
Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a nutritional habit that involves periods of time throughout a 24 hour period where no food is consumed. To clarify, a period of fasting involves...
Strength Training for Kids
Strength training for kids is a controversial topic of conversation. Old wisdom suggests that strength training is dangerous for children and will lead to failure to grow...
Strength training for children
Strength training for children has been a debated topic for many years now...
Exercise For Children
Exercise for children is one of those new-age topics of conversation and a major money spinner for corporations trying to cash in on “what’s hot”...
Early childhood physical development
Early childhood physical development is just as important as childhood mental and psychological development...

Recent Articles

  1. About Sprint Ninja

    Aug 31, 15 12:20 AM

    Sprint Ninja is a fitness and physical performance business utilising an effective set of systems and training principles, specialising in sprinting performance...

    Read More

  2. Sport and Athletic Conditioning Articles

    Aug 30, 15 06:29 AM

    Welcome to the sport and athletic conditioning articles section. Here you will find articles pertaining to specific sports and athletic events....

    Read More

  3. Being Competitive

    Aug 30, 15 06:24 AM

    Being competitive is often seen as a negative thing. No doubt you have heard that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, just do it for yourself....

    Read More

YOUR COACH – Chris Lyons

Chris Lyons is an experienced strength and conditioning coach, having trained athletes of all ages and levels since 2002. Chris specialises in coaching athletes for speed and power specific to fast-moving sports such as rugby league, rugby union, soccer, Aussie rules football etc. Since 2002 Chris has conducted close to 15,000 hours of training and coaching directly with athletes and members of the general population. From this experience comes Sprint Ninja, based on tried and tested training methods combined with up to date research. Chris continues to challenge himself not only as a coach, but also as an athlete, competing in sprinting events, strongman and Olympic-style weightlifting.

View Chris Lyons's profile on LinkedIn