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August 28, 2012

12 Reasons Sprinting is the King of Cardio

By Jillian Teta

Ah, the leaves are beginning to fall here in North Carolina. It’s just the very beginning of late summer and early fall. This is perfect weather for sprints! You very likely have heard all of us over at JillFit talk about how awesome sprints are, and for today I wanted to break it down and let you know specifically why I think sprints are one of the best – if not the very best – tool that you can add to your training arsenal.

So here we go:

1) Sprints are fast.

They are fast in a lot of ways. For one, I define a sprint as an all-out, chest-heaving, muscle-burning burst where you are going as fast as you can for a short amount of time or distance. My humble opinion is that the best distances for sprints are 80m, 100m or 200m. If you are going much beyond 400m, we get into middle distance and pacing, which is not where we want to be for sprints. If you are not on a track, you can also go for time – aim for 20 or 30 seconds. So, we have these 30 second or less bursts of intense, full body movement. If you are doing 8-10 sprints, with recovery time in between, the workout won’t take very long, typically about twenty minutes or so. Sprints are a great thing to squeeze in when you don’t have a lot of time but want a killer workout.

2) Sprints are hard.

Yup, I said it, and that is why I love ‘em. Ladies who are always looking for the next great physical challenge are well served by sprints, because as you improve and get faster and more coordinated, you can push yourself harder and harder, adding in layers of challenge for yourself. Sprints are the best way to get the B’s and the H’s that we discuss at Metabolic Effect – breathless, burning, hot and heavy. This translates into a full-body fat burning effect.

3) Sprints are empowering.

There is nothing like completing a set of sprints to make you feel like you can tackle anything. Because they are so short and fast, they are doable. Because they are difficult, when you complete them – even when you complete just one – your mindset shifts to one of triumph and bad-assness.

4) Sprints are probably the best exercise for the midsection.

We all know that abs are made in the kitchen, right? Of course, but that doesn’t mean we neglect them in training. Sprints target the abs, including the obliques, the love handle area and the ever-elusive lower abs to make the entire midsection look more tight and defined.

5) Sprints are contemplative/meditative.

Stay with me on this one. Getting to the edge of your physical capabilities while sprinting can introduce a wonderful clarity of mind, or of curiosity for things that are beyond us. I get some of my best thinking, insights and ideas while resting in between sprints.

6) Sprints help you break through plateaus.

Feeling stuck with your physique goals? Measurements haven’t moved in weeks? Try throwing in a day of sprints. This is almost a fail-proof way to bust through places where we are stuck. Are you already doing sprints? Try hill sprints, or try mixing up your sprint routine. If you always do 100’s, swap to 80’s and 200’s for a few weeks.

7) Sprints help put you in a good mood.

Following numbers 3 and 5, after wrapping up sprints you are sure to feel your mood uplifted. Whether from the endorphins and catecholamines, the feelings of empowerment or accomplishment, or just the very fact that you are done will increase your feelings of well-being.

8) Sprints can be done outside.

Sure, they can be done on a gym on the treadmill or on an indoor track (and they should be in bad weather) but sprints are a great way to get some good hard exercise in while enjoying the sun on your skin, the blue sky and the clouds, a nice breeze, and some fresh air.

9) Sprints give you physical energy, rather than draining you of it.

Contrast it with long duration cardio of many miles/hours and the usual subsequent hunger and exhaustion.

10) Sprints train the whole body.

There is no full-body exercise like sprints. In addition to training the glutes, quads, calves, hamstrings and midsection, sprints also train the lats and shoulders. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce? ‘Nuff said.

11) Sprints train the body and mind.

Incorporating sprints into your training regimen helps you build and hone the mental discipline of looking for your limits and pushing through them. An uncomfortable place? Oh you bet, but the sweetest spot for growth and new levels of awesomeness to occur.

12) Sprints can help you eliminate the need for long, boring cardio.

True confession time: I don’t jog. I don’t do tempo runs, I don’t do marathons or half marathons or 5Ks or triathlons. They are not my thing, and I don’t need them. They are great for those who enjoy them, but if you do these types of things because you feel like you have to in order to stay lean, I invite you to try 3 sprint sessions per week for several weeks, and see how that suits you.


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