If you have a love-hate relationship with running, we hear you. But if that’s because you think of slogging endless miles at a dirt-slow pace, it’s time to rethink your cardio. Longer isn’t always better. Going short and sweet (at top speed!) will not only save you precious time in the gym, it’ll get your body and brain working in a whole new way.
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Train Smarter, Not Harder
“Sprint interval workouts allow you to effectively train for shorter periods of time, but at higher levels of fitness providing long-term benefits,” says Christopher Trigger, MD, CAQSM, a board certified physician in emergency and sports medicine and triathlete who uses sprint variations in his own training. In addition to raising your heart rate and working your muscles harder in less time, sprint intervals are a great way to push your lactate threshold, or VO2 max,” Trigger says. And when your lactate threshold increases, so does your body’s efficiency at ridding itself of the lactic acid that accumulates in your blood stream during exercise.
Want more lean muscle? “Sprinting has been shown to increase muscle hypertrophy,” aka muscle regeneration, says Trigger. Sprint training can also trigger the EPOC effect, in which your body ramps up production of fat burning cells even after you’ve left the track. In other words, speed work is the gift that keeps on giving.
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Sprint Ahead: The Workouts
If you want a lean, ripped physique this summer, then ditch the long runs and opt for all-out effort. Depending on your goals, there are three different styles of sprint training —conditioning, speed and agility. Mix and match the various approaches into your regularly scheduled workouts, or go full speed ahead with our week-long sprint series below. In this program, you’ll perform one workout below followed by a rest day. Be sure to start each workout with a dynamic warm-up and it’s off to the races!
Sprint Workout 1: Conditioning
The goal: Total conditioning. This should work on building your speed-strength, or the capacity to remain at 80%+ of all out speed for a set number of intervals. Each interval in the conditioning portion is a lactic acid burner; your lungs will be worked as hard as your muscles.
The workout: 8-12 x 200 meters with 2-3 minutes walk rest between sprints
Do the first couple of sprints at 60-80% max effort and then the remaining sprints at 85%+. Try for even pacing of all intervals starting with the 3rd set. If you feel good on the last set, try to run your fastest sprint. Remember, do not exert yourself too hard on the first couple rounds; starting out more slowly while finishing strong will ensure a fun workout, with the least risk of injury or overtraining.
Sprint Workout 2: Speed
The goal: Developing pure speed and power. Think game speed on any field of play; short, intense all-out bursts with full recovery.
The workout: 6-8 x 50 meters with 3 minutes rest between sprints
The first couple sprints should be around 60-90% max effort and then the remaining sets at 95%+. There should be a full recovery between each rep to ensure maximum speed and power on each sprint.
Sprint Workout 3: Agility Triangles
The goal: Ready-for-anything athleticism. Humans are phenomenal athletes by nature, but too often we run only in one straight line or around a track. Changing direction and running backwards are necessary to tap our true athletic potential, whether you’ve got your eye on a Tough Mudder or a company softball league.
The workout: 8-12 rounds with 30 seconds rest between sprints
Set a triangle of cones up to 10 meters apart from one another. Go into this workout easy on the first several reps before maintaining efforts at 80%+ of max effort.
Alternate each round between the two variations below:
Variation 1: Start at the first cone in a forward running direction. Sprint forward to the second cone, pivot as fast as possible into a backwards running position to the third cone, where you will pivot again as fast possible into a forward sprint toward the original starting position.
Variation 2: Start at the first cone in a backwards running position. Sprint backwards to the second cone, pivot as fast as possible into a forward sprint to the third cone, where you will pivot again as fast possible into a backward sprint toward the original starting position.
Still have more in the tank? Repeat the sprint series for 2-3 more weeks, and you’ll be on the fast-track to your best summer body yet.