Sprints are probably the most effective, yet underused, aspect of cardio. Most likely the reason is that many don’t know how to implement it and may not completely understand why they are so beneficial.
Lets start with how you can use these at any fitness level. Sprints can be performed by anyone as it is all out effort for a short period of time. I think that many people look at them as something only elite athletes use. Yes, they do, but they use them because they improve their performance immensely!
They are very simple and if you write down your times you will see how you are improving. It is always important to do a warm up before any exercise and when you are focusing on all out effort, it is imperative. The great thing about sprints is you can do them walking, running, on a bike and even on an elliptical. The focus is on getting your heartrate to maximum level for that short period of time, usually 20-30 seconds max. When I taught spinning, we would do a lot of sprints scattered throughout the class. After a good warmup we would work to the first sprint. Remember, sprints are done at whatever level you are capable, but always shooting to get better. When you sprint, that all out effort should only be for that 20-30 second time. You should be spent at the end, and needing the recovery time to focus on breathing and getting the heartrate back down. This is key. You have to find the balance of all out effort, not passing out and not going too easy. I always err on the side of caution when first using these so you can feel out where you are. Again, if you feel like it was easy, you weren’t sprinting. You should need that recovery. One a bike or elliptical, make sure you have resistance on the pedals as that will help get the HR up.
If you are a walker, you can still do these. Simply kick up your pace to get well out of the comfort zone. If running isn’t something you strive for, you will want to look at a spin bike/class or elliptical, as running is going to be the only option for improvement. Recovery is so important in that getting your HR back under control is part of cardiovascular fitness. Deep, controlled breaths are what you want to focus on, as that will get you centered. Keeping a log with your heartrate and even how long it takes to get back under control will help you tremendously. Remember, if you don’t feel like you need the recovery, you aren’t doing the sprints properly.
Why is this a great training tool? When you sprint, you are increasing your caloric burn tremendously. Not only that, but you are using your muscles to their maximum and you will see greater muscle growth too. Look at the pure sprinters you see in the Olympics. There isn’t an ounce of fat on them and muscle development is amazing. You most likely won’t see that much growth unless you train as much as they do but you will see improvement. You will be much more efficient with your workout when using sprints too. Spending less time, yet more effective time, working out is always good.
Remember to fuel yourself properly with water and the right foods when looking to sprint, as that will make a big difference!
Until next time…