An urban-life classic is picking up exercising (usually with a diet program) as a New Year resolution and calling it quits before end-February. I previously talked about running becoming trendy. Unfortunately, giving up running (because of not achieving aims) is quite trendy also.
According to USA 2011 state of the sport report, the second popular motivation for running is weight concerns and around 75% of respondents run to “stay in shape”. As a recreational runner, I can only talk about a little tip that helped me kill three birds with one stone: 1) losing body-fat (and weight), 2) run faster (improving my marathon time), 3) last, but not least: made running less boring. Of course, the usual disclaimer applies: this is something that worked for me: Adding interval running to my routine.
Most people believe in running constantly at low intensity to burn fat. Last week, I saw a (fit) friend of mine told me he runs one hour three times a week, but he is running 8.5km (and I am sure he was capable of doing 11-12km per hour). This was the way of work-out that I was practicing with in my preparation for my first marathon. It is boring, routine and does not get you any faster as you are not pushing your body. The problem with running at low intensity - low heart-rates is once the exercise is over, you are almost unplugging the metabolism’s fatburn rate. Embrase running in intervals to keep the fat burning mode “ON”.
Interval running is an alternative that capitalizes on running in high intensity repetitions with low intensity recovery periods in between. It allows afterburn or with its technical name, EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. You can google or click the links for scientific information on high-intensity interval training. I read spinning burns 150 more calories in the next few hours post-exercise and for running numbers vary from 35 to 250 calories.
The picture shows Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-HourBody, his second book after The 4-HourWorkweek. The first time I heard about afterburn was in “ which is like a Choose-your-own-adventure book for the human body. It is a good read.
Interval running helped me taking out some of the routine from the exercise especially during the boring treadmill sessions (a part of my life, thanks to London weather). Depending on your level, you can slowly build interval running. Example, a 30 minute run, you can start with a warm-up at 9km/hr for the first 6 minutes, then run for 3 minutes at 11-11.5km/hr, one or two minutes recovery (say at 9km/hr), repeat it four times, and finish off with last five minutes at an average pace - say 9.5km/hr. You can play around with the duration and pace. Running outside, you can do a similar exercise with time, such as an easy run for 5 minutes, followed by 3minute sprints and 2 minute recovery sessions. As you get better, you can increase the duration, hold your fast sessions (or even go running “eyes-out”). Check out the video on the link showing Brad Pitt on atreadmill (from Burn AfterReading) on how NOT to do interval running.
The beauty of interval training is it is a gradual process where you build up consistently. You get faster without noticing, you burn more fat without noticing and you earn those post-exercise treats. I, personally have a soft spot for baklava, dark chocolate coated Turkish delight and milk chocolate coated Brazilian nuts. Running intervals allow me stick to these little guilty pleasures of life. In fact, treadmill running when coupled with a bit of an increase your protein intake could work wonders in fat-burning.
As every rose has its thorn, interval running needs to be treaded carefully. It is not a substitute for constant-pace runs, but more of a complement. It is generally not recommended to do more than two interval sessions in a week. In my experience, it comes with two downsides. First, there is a risk of overdoing it (either by going too fast too soon or exploiting body limits too early). Secondly, you get more injury-prone if you move on too quickly. I can get away without stretching in the constant slower runs, but with intervals no stretching will almost always catch up to you in form of muscle pain. I can’t stress the importance of post-run stretching or getting an occasional sports massage if you wish to take on interval training. Happy and healthy running.
The picture shows the another good friend for the recreational runner: foam rollers. They are helpful for stretching and post-workout-self-massage. You will possibly need them if you decide that interval training is for you.