The Myth: You need to Run to Get into Shape or Improve your Cardio
A few Monday's ago I addressed the myth that if you want to lose weight you need to to more cardio, and more cardio for most people means a long slow run. When most people consider what they need to do "to get into shape," they mostly think about doing long slow runs. The long slow run has a tight grip on the misbelief that it is the best way to lose weight and get into shape.
Don't get me wrong, a long slow run has its place in a well round and varied fitness program. We regularly program 5 and 10k runs for the gym (Sweet Pea, Huffing for Stuffing, Run to the Pub.) It's also great for mental health. A long slow run can help you get into a mental state where you can either solve all of your problem, or completely forget about them.
However, the long slow run will not, exclusively, make you lose weight or get into shape. What helps you do both of those things? You guessed it, high intensity interval training (exactly like the kind we're doing today.)
High intensity interval training (HIIT) in the running world can be sprints, running up hills, running with weight (sandbags, medballs, or sleds), or surging during a longer run (running at a steady state and incorporating faster intervals at a specific time or distance into the run.)
High intensity interval training taps into your anaerobic metabolic system and promotes muscular endurance as well as power. High intensity interval training can help you run longer runs faster, and can help you have energy for a kick at the finish of a long run. High intensity interval training helps you develop power and speed, both of which help you in sports such as skiing and cycling.
The long slow run (or LSD) only works on ONE metabolic system, the aerobic one, whereas HIIT works your TWO anaerobic systems in addition to your aerobic one. This means you work ALL of your metabolic systems thereby getting you in shape faster. It also means you build muscle (through the anaerobic systems) which means you expend more energy thereby helping you lose weight. Muscle has a larger metabolic energy requirement than fat. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn.
So the next time your well meaning friend, co-worker, or family member mentions to you that they need to get into shape so they're going to start running, you can help guide them toward a better way. Certainly running is a natural (after all, we were born to run) and inexpensive (you just need some shoes) way to get into shape and lose weight, but we can do it better by incorporating some HIIT. Good luck!
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