Sprints Are Great, I Swear!

June 22nd, 2011 | Posted by Alison Spath in Fitness

I try to be a model parent.

I eat my vegetables.  I brush my teeth.  I make a genuine effort to not swear in front of my children – or so I liked to believe.

As it turns out, Maxine and I had a very revealing conversation at bedtime the other night while discussing homonyms.

(You know… their/there/they’re, two/to/too, you/ewe, know/no)

Maxine (contributing to our list of examples): Like, sit and sit!

Me: Sit?

MaxineSit like when you “sit down”, and sit like you say when you’re frustrated.

Oh, sit.

OK, yes.  I do inevitably swear in front of my kids despite my best intentions.  What can I say – sit happens.  We do talk about swear words and that there are no good words or bad words (holy hippie tree-hugger mother) just bad timing.

If there is “bad timing” (i.e., not in front of your grandmother or the nuns, per the rule growing up in my 50% Catholic household) then it follows that there must be “good timing”.

For me, good timing is apparently during interval work outs – because that’s when F Bombs are dropped aplenty and there are no grandmothers, nuns or small children within ear shot.

Sign Language Letter F

(That would be the Letter F in sign language. We totally hung with those Signing Time peeps Alex and Leah back in the day, yo.)

High Intensity Interval Training

Now that summer is here, I’m back on my bike a couple days a week and I always try to hit up at least one or two big hills during each ride.  (As seen above!)  The climb up a big hill jacks up my heart rate, thus releasing all sorts of feel good hormones, spikes the production of HGH (you remember all the great stuff about Human Growth Hormone, right?) and it just plain old keeps thing interesting.

I aim to do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) about once a week.  Hills on my bike, sprints on the track or treadmill – it’s all about bursts of high intensity exercise with a chance to recover before upping the intensity again.

Intervals are great when you’re short on time and especially if you’re trying to lose weight.  Sprints increase your Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) – or “after burn”.  Basically, your body burns extra calories AFTER your workout in the effort to return to its post-exercise state, especially compared to the number of calories you’d burn after a workout without any bursts of high intensity.

Anyone Can Do It

Interval sprints can be used by folks at all fitness levels.  Athletic types can use intervals to get faster and improve their endurance.  Someone new to an exercise regime can benefit from adding some intervals into their workouts as well.  Really, it just comes down to upping the intensity of any exercise you’d normally do for short periods of time.

As always, it’s best to ease yourself into anything that’s new and different.  Please consider talking to your health care professional before you start before dropping any F bombs.

Lots of Options

I’m always on the lookout for different ways to do interval training.  It’s a lot easier to find fun and new places to do this stuff now that the warm weather has returned and we can get outside without 15 layers of clothes on.

After 5 – 10 minute warm up, any of the following will do:

The Track

I’m fortunate to live near a university with a track team and minimal security.  Most high schools have tracks you can probably sneak on to as well.  My favorite speed work out these days is to sprint once around the track, then jog a lap at a super easy pace to recover.  You can sprint half a lap, a quarter of a lap, sprint until you’re gasping for air and clutching at your chest.  (OK, maybe not that last one.)

I usually do 4 – 5 sets and call it a work out.


The hills are great for cyclists, but for runners and walkers too.  No increase in speed necessary.  You can move at your normal pace and let the incline alone be enough to send spit, sweat and choice words flying from the area above your neck.

The Stairs

How about the stairs in your house?  Or in your high rise office building or hotel?  Got a place in your city or town where there are 20 or 30 stairs to climb?  The bleachers that overlook the track you sneak on to can be a great place to run stairs too.  Climb up for for your interval, down for your recovery.  Repeat.

On the Beach

When you’re on vacation or if you’re lucky enough to live near the ocean or a lake, sprint and recover doing laps up and down the beach.  What the heck, take your shoes off while you’re at it.

Right on Your Own Street!

You don’t have to hit up the track to do interval sprints; you can of course simply sprint up and down your street.  Sprint in one direction and then turn around and jog back.  Or just pick up the pace a couple of times during a normal run.

If running isn’t your thing but you’d still be up for getting a little sweatier than usual once in a while, go for a walk and just throw in some power walking or easy jogging for timed intervals – 30 to 90 seconds is great.  Again, anything that is more intense than what you’d usually do totally works.  Recover then do it again!

Body Weight Exercises

So you might do some push ups, then stand up and do some jumping jacks, then some squats, then run in place or up and down your stairs and then more push ups, situps or squats.  After a warm up you can alternate cardio and body weight exercise for 15 – 20 minutes and then cool down.

No, I don’t get all my ideas from Jillian Michaels – but she has definitely screamed at me many a morning.  And I liked it.

The Time Flies By

With a 5 minute easy warm up, 10 – 15 minutes of serious effort, 5 – 10 minutes to cool down – a HIIT workout always goes by really fast for me.  It’s also a great way to get in a good work out when you only have 20 minutes to a half hour to spare.

That’s what I’ve got!  Any other ideas?  Lay’em on me.  I’m off to help a little one practice making the “sh” sound.

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7 Responses

  • I love interval training. I’m the weird one who likes the speed days better than the long, slow runs. I get bored with those.

    • Well I’m weird too then – I love how soon the speed workouts are over! I suppose I look forward to long, easy slow runs if it’s been a while, provided my iPod is topped off with Jillian’s latest podcasts of course.

  • Great tips! I’m getting back to trying to become a runner… I walk then run for a bit, then walk some more. Yesterday, I wore my heart monitor and used it as a gauge. I’d run until I felt I should stop then walk until my heart rate was down to a number that felt good… then I’d start running again. Surprisingly (to me at least), I was faster than the day before when I wasn’t using the heart monitor. Of course, today, I’m sore… so it’s a yoga day.

    • The run/walk/run approach is how I’ve gotten back into it when I’d gone long period without running, like when I stopped during my pregnancy with Maxine and then didn’t start again until she was 3 or 4 months old. I’ve found that it always comes back faster than I expect it to. Sounds like you are on the right track!

  • Becky says:

    Hey, just wanted to warn you against making the symbol in the first picture, if you visit Germany, since there it means asshole 😉 Here in Denmark it means okay, and I think I heard once that in Greece it means gay.

  • holly says:

    ugh, i wish i didnt hate HIIT so much. i need to learn to like it. but i guess learning to like it would involve me actually doing it. point taken.