Burn more in less time: Tips for adding intervals to your run
Spring, for many of us, means dusting off the old running shoes and trading the gym for the pavement. Yes, running season has begun. But, as great as it feels to get outside, the truth is, we might not be getting as much benefit out of our jogging sessions as we think. Thanks to the HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) movement we've become more aware of the health and fitness benefits of shorter workouts with bursts of explosive intensity and the drawbacks of a moderate pace for a longer period of time.
Some research shows that high intensity circuits can burn up to twice as many calories than distance running. Experts also say that just 15 minutes of HIIT leads to more athletic progress than an hour of jogging, and that intervals improve aerobic capacity much quicker than endurance work. But, if you love to run, fear not – there is a way to improve the efficiency and efficacy of your road-work. Here are some ideas to help you spice up and intensify your runs.
Run for your life
Name a six letter curse word that starts with an S. If you guessed "sprint" then you have likely already experienced the joys of speed intervals! On the bright side – it means you get to take regular rests. (A good trainer is never too proud to negotiate.) Basically with interval work, you're trying to get your heart rate to skyrocket for a short period of time and then bring it back down again. What I like to do is jog a block, sprint a block, and walk a block. Note: to achieve the desired goal, the sprints have to be all-out, max-effort bursts. If the blocks on your route are long – pick a landmark, like a stop sign, a few hundred meters ahead and give 'er. Another way I like to measure it is by music – every time the chorus hits, sprint like there's no tomorrow. Rest for a few bars and then jog the rest of the verse. It's a fun way to mix it up and keep you engaged.
(More than) one direction
No one said we had to run forward! In fact, switching directions and running sideways – also known as "the shuffle" – is an incredibly effective way to add intervals to your run. Doing short bursts of shuffles in both directions not only increases the heart rate and the calorie burn but it also uses the inner and outer thigh muscles that don't often get challenged with a regular run. Similar to the speed work, you can run a regular block and then shuffle with left foot leading for a block, run forward a block again and then switch to the right foot for the next round. Extra bonus points if you can get into a low, squat-like position for the shuffles and burn out your lower half.
For anyone who runs in the city, you know the struggle of constantly waiting for stop lights to change. Little did we know, we could have been making use of that idle time by adding some high intensity exercises. Every time you hit a red light, perform 10 jump squats, 10 jump lunges and 10 tuck jumps and repeat that circuit until the light turns green again. If lights aren't an issue on your route – you can use your music again to help dictate your intervals: every time your song changes, stop and do three rounds of the aforementioned circuit. This will undoubtedly get the heart rate spike that we're looking for.
Another trick I use to help me out of my run ruts is playing with my pace. This is different than the speed intervals because I'm not talking about sprints (you're welcome). I'm talking about alternating between a quicker run pace and an easy jog pace for longer periods of time. For this, again, music is a huge asset because you can pace your strides to the beat of the songs. On my playlist, I will alternate between fast songs and slower songs and it forces me to constantly switch up my pace. It's a little different for everyone, but a few examples of fast songs for me are "Just" by Radiohead, which clocks in at 175 BPM, "Countdown" by Queen Bey at 167 BPM, and Adam Levine and K'naan's jam, "Bang Bang" at a challenging 180 BPM. Go-to slower songs for me include, Britney's "Mmm Papi" at 80 BPM, Beyonce's "Halo," and JLo's "I'm Into You." You can search the BPM of your favourite song you can try here or if search a roster of songs by their BPM online. This technique makes the time go by super quickly and keeps the challenge real.
Good luck out there and happy running season!