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Getting fit, one sprint at a time
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To build the cardiovascular system, Qcitymetro.com fitness writer Sondra E.Z. Hines does “interval training” -- a method of conditioning that alternates short, high-intensity exercise sessions with short rest periods. (Photo: Courtesy of Sondra E.Z. Hines)

Last weekend I sprinted to the top of a steep hill. And then I repeated it several times.

No, I hadn’t lost my mind. I was practicing a fitness technique known as “interval training” -- one of the quickest ways to strengthen the cardiovascular system.

Interval training is a method of conditioning that alternates short, high-intensity exercise sessions with short rest periods or lower intensity bouts.

Specifically, interval training uses the aerobic and anaerobic systems – two of the body’s energy-producing structures.

The aerobic system allows one to walk or run for several miles and uses oxygen to convert carbohydrates from sources within the body into energy.

The anaerobic system gets energy from carbs (via glycogen) that are stored in the muscles for short bursts of activities such as sprinting, jumping or lifting heavy objects. This system does not need oxygen nor does provide sufficient energy for more than a few brief activities. A close relative of this system, lactic acid, is responsible for the ache or burn one feels in the muscles after running up stairs.

Before beginning I followed a few safety precautions.

First, I warmed up by jogging a few laps around a track. Next, I stretched. It’s important to always perform a warm-up before beginning any exercise. I then ran uphill sprints followed by a recovery phase (walking down the hill) before I sprinted back up. I did this routine a few times.

Although I was winded in the end, I enjoyed doing something different as part of my fitness routine. I chose interval training to help enhance my agility and endurance in preparation for an upcoming race.

If you’re interested in interval training, here are a few training/safety tips:

  • Always warm up.
  • Start slowly -- walk 2 minutes/run 2 minutes. (Longer intervals provide better results and burn more calories.)
  • Interval training can include swimming, sprints or power walking, to name a few.
  • Perform interval training a few times per week, not every day; the body needs time for rest and recovery.
  • Just starting a fitness program? Beginners should condition their bodies roughly six to eight weeks before adding interval training.
  • Always consult a doctor before starting, particularly if you have health concerns or if you are over 50.
  • Be mindful of intensity/speed, duration/distance and rest/ recovery, as well as the number of repetitions. In other words, gradually increase intensity/speed before working to increase distance/duration.
  • Another benefit of this training is, you won’t work the same muscles all the time.
  • Have fun!

Anyone can enjoy the benefits of interval training. The key is to start slowly, work at your own pace and add repetitions incrementally.

The next time I’m running up a hill, perhaps I’ll see you.

Save The Date:
• Join me Saturday, February 16, for the 2013 “Women's Healthy Symposium: Women Who Thrive” at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church (3400 Beatties Ford Road) The event will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. A $10 fee covers a full day of health-related activities, including a continental breakfast, panel discussion, breakout sessions and lunch. I’ll be teaching a Zumba class! For details, visit www.friendshipcharlotte.org.

Until next time, I wish you good health, joy and wellness!
Editors Note: For more health & fitness content, visit our health page at www.qcitymetro.com/health.


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August 30, 2015
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