You don’t really have the time for a lengthy workout session… nor do you need one. Good news: If you’re already eating right, research shows that short, intense sprints interspersed with periods of slower activity can torch that last roll of belly fat even more effectively than a long run.
A Canadian study put groups of people on exercise bikes. These individuals alternated between 10 sets of four-minute bursts, riding at 90 per cent effort with two minutes of rest intervals of slow pedalling. The participants who did the intervals produced more of a muscle enzyme that burns fat, and used more fat for energy. So, go fast to burn fast…
1 ATTACK THE TRACK
All you need is a half hour. Head down to the running track and do a 5- to 10-minute slow jog, slowly accelerating to a 70 to 80 per cent effort, then back to a slow jog and cool down. The Journal Of Applied Physiology has shown that six sessions of four to seven sets of 30-second sprints (rest four minutes between sets, or do a slow jog) are as effective as an equivalent hour of daily low-level aerobic exercise.
Here’s a sample session: 50m x 2 sets, 100m x 2 sets and 200m x 2 sets (reversing the order is also a good way to do it).
2 STREAMLINE YOUR FORM
Running pedal-to-the-metal is very different from doing a leisurely 5km run round the estate. This is one aspect of running where bad form will affect your running gait to a very large degree. Also, as you fatigue, you’ll notice it gets harder and harder to keep your form. Start on the right foot with these tips by Dr Kevin Chew, consultant sports physician at the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre.
>>Arms They serve a huge role to power you forward when you’re sprinting. Aim to drive them forward (until your hand reaches around your mouth level) and backwards in a relaxed, yet forceful manner. Take note to move them parallel to your direction of travel, and not to cross them in front of your body.
>>Body A forward lean is essential during the sprint, especially during your acceleration phase. Keep your head down and body inclined at a roughly 60-degree angle, slowly straightening up when you reach maximum speed. Begin your sprint sets with a half-crouch.
>>Legs This is the most crucial aspect of sprinting form: Always aim for a high knee lift. At the start of the sprint, aim for a rapid stride, slowly looking to elevate your knees to just below hip level.
>>Feet Forget heel-striking – make sure you land on the balls of your feet all the time. Visualise driving your feet into the track and pulling them forcefully backwards. Check out how Usain Bolt, the 100m world record holder, does it. (www.tinyurl.com/usainsprint).
3 INCLINE POWER
Don’t live near a stadium? Hills are awesome as well. A study in the Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research says that hill runs can make you a faster runner in six weeks – even better, the faster you run, the higher your resting metabolism (meaning you’ll shed kilos even when you’re asleep).
Try this workout: Run hard for 10 to 15 seconds on a steep incline, then walk or slow jog back down. Do this for six to eight sets and jog for a minute in between sprints. Stairs work just as well for this.