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Friday, August 13, 2010

Another Look At Sprinting vs Slow Steady State Cardio


There are numerous articles and studies talking about the eternal argument over steady state (slow) cardio and high intensity interval training (HIIT) or sprints. Both sides point out the strengths and weaknesses of the other. Over the last 28 years, I have done ample amounts of both, so I'm gonna tell you my 2 cents on it. Here is the BLUF: bottom line up front - for fat burning and performance enhancement, HIIT or sprinting is superior for both.

Coming from a martial arts, fitness and military background, I have had to live as a weightlifter in a runner's world. Based upon your lifestyle, you have to adapt to the requirements of the day. In the Army- which is a camouflaged runner's world, guess what? - you have to run. Most of the running involves distance. I spent many years running 4 or 5 miles or more a day. Long distance running combined with heavy rucksacks and long footmarches, jumping out of planes and smashing into the earth like a freakin meteorite, my knees and back were shot for most of the 20 years. And if the carb loading, steady state cardio crew was correct, I should have been ripped like a fitness model.

But I wasn't! The more I ran, the flabbier I got. In fact, one of my running buddies had a pot belly- aka fat as f@#k, and he could run like a gazelle. The gut never went away though regardless of how many 5 mile runs we did. So I know for a fact, from personal experience, that slower distance running doesn't burn fat effectively. It can make you fat or keep you fat, due to the catabolic (muscle eating) effects of running.

As far as performance enhancement -(running longer, faster), I spent many years running different distances at different paces trying to improve my run times for various distances. Of all the different running improvement techniques that I tried, only one type of training worked - fast, short distance training. On my list of stuff that works are sprints of any kind, track sprints, stair sprints, hill running, fartlek runs, indian runs, interval runs, swimming, short distance (6 miles)- fast footmarches with heavy loads and intervals on specific cardio equipment like the versaclimber or jacobs ladder. So that's what I recommend for speed improvement. And then when I added the distance in, I ran it as fast as I could with a varying pace (Sprinting straightaways, slow down hill, fast uphill) and my overall time improved. Because my anaerobic threshold increased from the speed work, I was able to maintain a faster steady pace for distance. Technique, Stride and posture work is also essential to increasing performance. Check out all the running videos on crossfit's website for some good info. -And I don't recommend them often.

Back to fat burning! So we've established that slow mythical fat burning zone runs don't do nothing for fat loss and sprinting does. You can google countless studies showing the tech specs of how sprints work or don't work for fat loss. I know it works. By itself is it totally the best - no. The best way to burn fat is to use the biologically sound, science based, 3 phases of fat loss. Mobilize free fatty acids out of the fat cell and into the bloodstream with sprints, transport the fatty acids through the blood stream and into the muscles with a slow recovery period after the sprints and oxidize the fatty acids by burning it off as fuel for the muscles with a hard steady run. So a combination of sprints, slow recovery and hard steady state cardio activates the 3 phases of fat loss in sequence. That is why I have my clients use the 42 minute targeted fat loss cardio plan.

If you are short on time and have x number of minutes to workout, then either do a tabata drill or sprints. 20-30 minutes is all that you need. If you are really short on time, then do one round of tabata (4 minutes) or some super intense short sprints for 4 minutes to activate the EPOC effect and burn calories for 12-36 hours after the workout. The full 20-30 minute workout will amplify the EPOC effect for long term post workout calorie burn and metabolic activity. Intensity is the key. So hit it fast and hard and eat good and the old jeans will be back on in no time. Be safe. Drink water and stretch and have a great day!

Eric
Dempsey's Resolution Fitness   
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