January 13, 2021
Raise your hand if you hated doing suicide runs during basketball practice? How about the beep test during gym class? What about 100-meter rows during crew training?
My hand is raised and it's raised pretty darn high, because I absolutely dreaded and still dread doing any form of sprinting.
When I say sprint, I'm talking full-out, give-it-everything-you've-got, blood-pumping, heart-rate-through-the-roof type of sprints. For the three of you crazy people out there who actually enjoy sprints, feel free to DM me and convince me otherwise.
But there's a reason why our coaches, gym teachers and fitness class instructors always included them. Spoiler alert — they work! Sprints, a subset of high-intensity interval training, are super impactful and can go a long way toward improving your health and overall fitness.
Interval training is fast. Set aside 30 minutes during the workday and you're going to achieve very similar results to what you would with 60 minutes of a slow cardio workout.
Interval training will boost your endurance levels and help increase your speed. With interval training, your body gets used to working harder and faster, so when you do set out for longer runs (or bike rides, etc.), you'll be surprised how much easier it is to go farther — and faster — without feeling a lack of energy.
You're training your body to get comfortable at that higher level of intensity for a longer amount of time without even realizing it! In fact, you'll find yourself starting to run faster even during your casual runs because you've gotten your body used to that increased heart rate.
Interval training can take many forms. In the past, we've discussed the benefits of high intensity interval training within the confines of a gym, such as burpees, squats and pushups. And while that form of HIIT is awesome, there are other, more basic forms of interval training as well.
Let’s discuss three — biking, running and rowing.
Peloton was probably the MVP of 2020 — not that that hellish year really deserved an MVP.
As more and more gyms shut down, tons of people ordered stationary bikes to better their at-home gyms. It seemed like I saw the Peloton truck outside my apartment building at least once a day during one month last summer. But any type of stationary bike (or outdoor bike, because fresh air is important!) will do.
Running sprints are another easy way to get your heart rate up and burn a ton of calories.
Whether you have a treadmill or enjoy pounding the pavement (my way of describing running outside to make it a bit more enticing ... feel free to steal!), you can easily break down a mile run into short, fast sprints and burn way more calories than you would have running an easy three miles.
My most recent method of performing sprints comes in the form of a rowing machine. This is probably the least popular among the three, but a big part of that stems from a lack of confidence and competence using one in a gym. For years, I never went near a rowing machine because I didn’t know how to use it and was scared to look dumb.
Let me first start out by telling you how simple a rowing machine is. There are typically very few buttons on the screen and if you don't even want to bother with the screen, you can just start rowing and the screen will automatically start tracking your progress. While running and biking might feel a bit more natural, rowing is easy to pick up and, for an added bonus, it is great on your joints. In fact, say hello to a high intensity "sprint" that's actually low-impact on your knees.
So what should it look like as you get into the rowing position? Let's start with form: arms straight, head neutral, shoulders relaxed, upper body leaning forward and in front of the hips, shins as vertical as possible and knees bent.
Next, you will press against the foot holders with your legs and swing back with your core and finally pull the handles straight back. At the end of that drive, your body should be leaning back while using your core to support your back from bending. The legs should be extended while the handle is held loosely below your ribs. The recovery back to the starting position is everything we just did, but in reverse. Extend your arms, then lean forward and allow your knees to bend and slide the seat back toward the start.
Most rowing machines will track distance, time, strokes per minute and a few other modalities. I like to focus on time and distance because they are the most universal. You absolutely can row for distance — I once rowed for 45 minutes and let me tell you, there's a reason it never happened again (hint: it is very boring). But performing rowing sprints is a great way to crush your body in a very low-impact way. Rowing machines, like bikes and treadmills can get expensive, however you can find less expensive options.
Give me 20 minutes of your time and I promise to leave you feeling out of breath and panting. Try out this favorite sprinting workout of mine. Whether you want to run, bike or row, it works for any!