Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hillsprints: The best conditioning exercise

For awhile I had been hearing the many benefits of incorporating hillsprints into my training program. At first the concept of sprinting up a hill didn't appeal to me. I mean, it's a physically hard & demanding workout. Sprinting on level ground is difficult enough,sprinting uphill is a different ball game. But, you either go hard, or you go home. One of my goals for the year was to get out of my comfort zone and do something that I wouldn't normally choose to do. I want to keep constantly challenging myself.

I like my conditioning & cardiovascular workouts to be intense and short. I cannot fathom being cooped up in a gym going endlessly on an elliptical machine or running longer than 35mins. Hillsprints & I started sounding more like a match made in heaven.

I finally bit the bullet a few months ago and ran up a hill. Now, it's my go-to conditioning exercise. If not one of my most favorite workouts. I even get my husband and daughter to sprint with me. We race each other and it's awesome motivation for me. I also have to say that my body composition has changed immensely. Whilst this can't all be credited to hillsprints, I have noticed my legs looking & feeling stronger since I first started.

What are the benefits of hillsprints?

1. Free exercise - No expensive memebership fees. Just go outside and find a hill, steep incline road, stadium steps or even outdoor steps.
2. Burns fat & improves your body composition - You will be hard pressed to find a conditioning exercise that does this so well. It targets & strengthens every major muscle in your body. Because you are fighting against gravity, your muscles (in particular your hamstrings, glutes, quads, calves) have to work so much harder. To adapt to this, they eventually get stronger. You just have to look at the body of a sprinter compared to that of a long distance runner to illustrate this.
3. Improves cardiovascular fitness - Your lung capacity & thus your stamina will increase as well as your speed & power.
4. Effectiveness - It bridges the gap between strength & conditioning workouts. Thereby, giving you more bang for your buck.
5. Risk of injury is minimal - You can't run as fast uphill as you can on level ground. This is a good thing as you will be less likely to overextend your muscles. Also, because of the incline your strides become shorter, which reduces the impact on your bones.
6. Time saver - It doesn't take a huge chunk of your time to do. 10-15mins at the most as this is a high intensity workout. Awesome for when you're pressed for time.
7. Euphoric Rush - The feeling of knowing you conquered that hill at the end of your workout is definitely a good one.

Tips on hillsprints

1. If you're new to running & hillsprints, take it easy. Don't be overly ambitious. As you get better at hillsprints, you will be able to run longer & faster.

2. Don't forget to warm up. I usually jog 1/2 mile to my preferred hill and add in dynamic stretching to get my body awake and ready for action.

3. Remember the steeper the hill, the harder the exercise.

4. Gauge your sprint distance according to your ability. A nice starter distance would be anywhere between 15-25 seconds. You can always increase your distance after a few sessions & as your body adapts.

5. Bring a stopwatch to time your sprints. This is a good way of managing your progression & improvements.

6. Run as fast as you can up the hill, walk back down and repeat. You can take a short rest at the bottom of the hill before sprinting again.

7. Aim for anywhere between 5-10 sprint repeats.

8. Stretch your muscles after.

Happy Sprinting!

~ Fit mom

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