Thursday, July 1, 2010

You've got nothing to lose, but weight

Written by Michelle Kempton
Published in Canadian Running Magazine

Interval training for weight loss.

If you’re like me and continue to struggle with your weight, have tried every diet, start “fitness kicks” only to give up after a month or two - then you need to try running intervals. They quickly give you the results you’re looking for and are highly addictive.

In August 2008, I hit a weight-loss plateau. My personal trainer suggested that I start running intervals. I thought he was crazy. How was I going to move my huge body faster than a walk? I consulted my doctor and she encouraged me to go for it, so I did. The only valid reason you have to not try running intervals is if your doctor says that you shouldn’t do it. I don’t buy into the excuse “I’m too fat to move fast.” I’m 5′4″ and weighed 250 pounds the first day I tried to run intervals.

Running faster repeats will improve your health and help you burn fat. You might not be fast at first, but with dedication and persistence, you’ll become a running machine. Now that I’m down to 165 pounds, my sprints are much faster, and I feel like a track star when I jet up the street. As an added bonus, you’ll find that your long-distance endurance and pace will improve.

I won’t lie to you - when you try running intervals for the first time you will probably:

- hate it
- want to throw up
- feel slightly oxygen-deprived
- experience exhaustion
- have aching muscles
- curse my name
- tell yourself that you’ll never do this again

If you push yourself hard enough while running repeated intense efforts, at one point (probably during the last set) you’ll experience a fabulous adrenaline rush. Afterwards, you’ll be so proud of yourself for running sprints that you’ll believe it was completely worth it.

You can do intervals alone or with others, but if you don’t find the perfect sprinting partner, it can be discouraging (especially for the person always trying to catch up). For interval training to be effective, you really need to give it your all, so it’s more important to focus on your own speed and making it to the end of the interval, instead of worrying about someone else’s workout.

Devin Sherrington, a Halifax personal trainer and avid runner, explains: “To burn fat, you want your heart rate to get high. Sprints do this, but since you can’t sprint all the time, intervals will drive your heart rate way up, then let it recover a little then get back up again. It’s similar to weight training in that manner.”

Sherrington suggests two types of interval running:

    1) Run the distance between two telephone poles, then walk the next set of telephone poles, then run between the next set of poles again. Do this for 10 sets, then turn around and head home doing the exact same thing. Try this for the first week. The next week try to increase your running speed between the poles, but still walk at a snail’s pace to recover. 2) Run for one minute straight, then walk slow for one minute to recover. Do that for 30 minutes. The next week, try to get further in distance within the same amount of time.

“You push your body harder in intervals since you’re not trying to hold back for later,” Sherrington says. “By going all out, you can do less running overall and work harder than you did before.”

It’s very important to listen to your body. You need to know the difference between “pushing it” and “overdoing it.” I always wear my heart rate monitor to make sure that I’m not going overboard on the sprints. If my heart rate gets too high, I bring down the intensity of the pace.