#1: Sprints are a powerful tool for fat loss.
Sports scientists write that sprinting is a highly effective training model for women to lose fat and improve body composition, all without the need to diet or cut calories.
#2: You still need to pay attention to what and how much you eat.
Sprints can help you lose fat without dieting, but watch out that you aren’t eating more calories than normal, either as a “reward” to yourself, or because you’re not recovering optimally and stress hormones are remaining elevated, leading to cravings and increased hunger.
#3: The magic is in the details of programming.
A new 6-week study of active, college-age women found that a Wingate running protocol of 4 to 6 all-out 30-second sprints allowed them to lose an average 1.4 kg of fat and reduce body fat by 8 percent, while gaining 1.3 percent lean muscle.
However, a previous study using both men and women by the same researchers found that the four women who took part lost zero body fat, while the men in the study lost a large 3 kg of body fat. Researchers conclude that while the Wingate protocol may work well for some women, it is unlikely to be the best method for every woman.
Rather, training should be individualized. Women who have high stress lives and trouble recovering effectively may benefit from high but not maximal intensity sprints.
#4: Provide mental relief with moderate-intensity intervals.
If you feel like you’re under enough “maximal” stress in your daily life, try moderately high-intensity sprints. High-intensity intervals take a little longer than all-out training, but they’re highly effective and provide mental relief if you’re not finding yourself able to generate the focus and drive required for maximal efforts.
If you’re new to intense exercise, start with 60-second intervals at a “hard” but not “all-out” pace on a resisted bike. Try ten intervals interspersed with 60 seconds active rest.
#5: Women and men respond to sprint training differently.
Comparison studies of how men and women respond to sprint training shows
that men go harder initially, however, as sprinting duration progresses, their performance drops off rapidly. Women maintain their pace, achieving higher heart rate maximum values, which they are able to maintain over the course of a workout.
Women also burn more fat during exercise and deplete ATP more slowly than men (whose bodies rely more on glucose), which contribute to women being able to recover faster than men.
This makes exercise that enhances fat burning absolutely essential for women who want to improve their bodies because of the unfortunate fact that women burn much less fat at rest.
If you’re active, use a larger work-to-rest ratio to produce greater metabolic stress if the goal is fat loss. Try a 2:1 or 3:1 work-to-rest ratio. A place to start is with 1-minute intervals with 30 seconds active rest.
#6: Train against resistance to optimize body composition.
In the Wingate study mentioned above, the women gained significant lean muscle in a short time (6 weeks is shorter than is generally required for measurable muscle development to occur), which was likely due to the fact that the self-propelled treadmill generated enough external resistance to stimulate muscle building.
Running or cycling without resistance might not produce as dramatic an increase because the time under tension, which stimulates muscle growth, is inadequate.
If you’re not lifting in addition to your sprint workouts, do your sprints against resistance. For example, running sprints can be done on a Woodway treadmill or if you don’t have access to one, do weighted sled sprints, cycle ergometer sprints on an Airdyne bike, or high-intensity weight training.
#7: Sprint training is great for getting lean in the abs and glute regions.
Sprint training can help women lose fat and gain muscle in the thighs and trunk—an area that is often considered “tricky” for women. A study of normal-weight women found that 15 weeks of 8-second resisted cycle sprints with 12 seconds rest repeated for 20 minutes allowed women to lose an average 2.5 kg body fat, with most of it coming from the legs and abdominal area.
Researchers note that although spot reduction is not considered possible, this study suggests that sprint training may be the exception—that is, doing sprints with the lower body musculature led to fat loss in the lower body.
#8: Program smart.
Look for ways to give yourself mental relief when designing sprint workouts by competing with others or “pyramiding” down the intensity. For example, do decreasing distance sprints of 400, 300, 200, 100 meters.
Or try a “fast start” strategy in which you do 2 to 4 sprints all-out, followed by the same number of moderate intensity repeats. By starting the workout with a bang, you can more than double the time spent above the “critical threshold” of maximal oxygen use.
#9: Program recovery time just as you do training.
When adding sprint training on top of a lot of life stress or even regular strength training, be aware of the need for optimal recovery. In theory, any kind of intense training, whether sprints, heavy lifting, or tissue-damaging plyometrics requires 48 to 72 hours for the central nervous system to recover.
#10: More powerful reasons to do sprints:
* Improved metabolism and mitochondrial density.
* Better heart, lung function, and circulation.
* Improved insulin sensitivity and ability to oxidize (burn) fat for energy.
* Better brain function and enhanced learning potential.
* Equal or better results as conventional cardio training in much, much less time.
Sprint training can be hard. Don’t let this deter you. There will be moments of doubt when you are in the middle of a sprint workout. The pain and uncertainty in your ability to finish your workout is all in your head.
By pushing through the physical discomfort, you build confidence in your physical and emotional ability. You accomplish something not many other people can do. You’ll get a lean, lovely body, and improve your health, putting you ahead of the biggest health threats you face as you age.