Human beings are creatures of habit. We like routine; we resist change; and we want to count on things staying the same. For those of you as methodical (OCD) as I am, not only do you like to repeat the same jogging distance, but you want to jog the same course at the same time and at the same intensity- all the time! You even have a set landmark finishing spot, and you absolutely have to hit that mark to feel complete. It’s your thing and you dig it.
From a fitness transformation standpoint, that doesn’t work. (Can you get really skinny, repeating that same jog over and over again, multiple times a day? Yes. But who has that kind of time on their hands? And wouldn’t you rather be fit than skinny?) The FITT Principle says that, in order to keep seeing fitness gains, you must change the Frequency, Intensity, Time, or Type of workout you’re doing.
Let me backtrack a bit and say if you are just getting started exercising, you don’t need to worry about the FITT Principle. You need to build an aerobic base (capacity of your heart and lungs to do somewhat tough work for a sustained period of time). A slow trek where you just keep going for 20-minutes or longer is a great place to start. You have to build that aerobic base before you can do anything else. Plus, initially, you will see changes from doing nothing to doing something. It’s just after you have been doing that a while, you’ll need to change things up to keep seeing results. (From a purely heart healthy standpoint, if this was all you ever did, it beats the heck out of doing nothing!)
For those of you who already have an established aerobic base, I’m not saying a workout should never be jogging a slow, steady pace in 70-degree breezy weather while singing along to Wilson Philips (“Hold on for one more day”)… These easy workouts enable you to get cardio and wellness benefits. They channel the parasympathetic nervous system. If you’re always doing very hard, strenuous workouts, your body will constantly feel under stress. The sympathetic nervous system will work overtime in “fight or flight” mode. Who wants to live in a catabolic state? (No one). So, occasional low-intensity workouts most certainly have their place. But if getting into serious shape is your pursuit, slow and steady cannot be your one trick pony.
There are plenty of ways you can spruce up the old jog. One is to, once or twice a week, do hill sprint repeats.
If you usually jog for distance, it may disappoint you that on these days, you won’t be logging as many miles as you do on long jogs. That’s not the point! Try to get that urge to always hit a certain mileage out of your head. The key with hill sprints is working very hard (all out!) during the on periods, recovering, then doing it all over again.
Okay, so find a hill! Search for a hill in your community that’s 200 meters long (half the length of one time around a track) and about 4-6% grade. If you aren’t quite sure what that looks like, try this workout first on a treadmill to get a feel for it. 6% grade for 200 meters is not always easy to find! Fortunately, if you’re reading this and live in central Texas, I have a few suggestions:
Georgetown- on Rabbit Hill Road, just north of Celebration Church, there’s a 200M incline at 6% grade. I have named it “Lucifer.”
Round Rock- in Teravista, on Teravista Parkway. Begin at the rectangular concrete slab on the east side of the street; end at the speed limit sign. You’ll pass the nature trail about halfway up.
Taylor- in the Mustang Ridge neighborhood (around FM 973 and the Loop). Around the middle of the community, there’s a 200 meter hill at 6% grade.
Austin- there are plenty of these in the Jester area. (I mean, there’s even a road named Great Hills). *Some will be steeper than 6% grade… if you couldn’t run it, all the way up, it’s probably too steep for this.
Wherever you live, find that sweet 200M, 4-6% incline… then here’s the plan!
Bring a digital stopwatch (or use the stopwatch on your smartphone). Do a light jog to the landmark so that you are warmed up.
Sprint with all your might up the 200M hill. (pump your arms big and brisk- it’ll help). Acknowledge your time.
Take two to three times the duration of your sprint to catch your breath, walk back down, and get your mind and body ready to do it again.
Be sure to time your sprint every time. If you’re used to steady state jogs, you’ll be tempted to just jog the hill with no pressure of performance by a stopwatch. Remember: this workout is about performance! You’ll have your days to jog without care of time. But this one is about bettering your best, and you do that by using the clock!
With training, most of you will be able to sprint the 200M in about 1-minute. (Yes, it depends some on how steep the hill is you selected within that range, but that’s doable for most people on 4-6% with training). If it takes you 1:00 to sprint up, stop the watch at the top and being counting the 2:00 to 3:00 time until you go again. The time you take to catch your breath and hydrate should all fit within that time, as well as your walk or jog back down the hill.
Repeat the hill sprint 5-10 times. When finished, as a recovery, jog slowly back to wherever you came (maybe singing along to Wilson Philips :-).
If you’re just getting started, 5 hill sprint repeats will be plenty. I would recommend, for most of you, starting with 5 repeats and doing that workout twice a week for two weeks. Then bump it up to 6 repeats. Spend two weeks there before raising it to 7. At this recommendation, it’ll take you 12 weeks to complete this program (2 d/wk, 2 wks with 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, then 10 hill sprint repeats, respectively). After those 12 weeks, it may be time to find a new hill!
May your gams and glutes feel burn they have not felt in a while (or ever!) and may you shock your body and see results from adding these hill sprints into your program!
There’s something new on the freezer aisle that’s changed the game of convenient healthy eating since the birth of my first child. I am not compensated in any way for this endorsement. This marvel in “TV dinners” is called Cafe Simply Steamers by Healthy Choice. Read the label! It is “simply” veggies, protein, and good-for-you carbs without any added fat, sodium, or flavoring of any kind. Underneath that is a healthy sauce. Because they’re separated, you can use as much or as little of the sauce as you’d like. Now, most of these dinners are in the 250 kcal range, which isn’t sufficient enough to make a meal for a nursing mother.
So, I add a few quick and easy (& super simple) homemade ingredients…
I boil a few red potatoes for about 15-minutes. I then turn off the heat and toss raw broccoli, mushrooms, and red bell pepper in the starchy water for about 5-minutes. I cook some chicken tenderloins in olive oil, salt, and pepper on the stovetop or grill while the veggies cook. Last, I chop up the chicken, drain the veggies, and add to the Cafe Simply Steamers. This more than doubles the volume of food! I use all of the sauce from the bottom compartment of the Simply Steamer- but you don’t have to! It’s so easy, so healthy, and so delicious!
Photographed is the Cafe Simply Steamers by Healthy Choice grilled chicken pesto & vegetables… plus my homemade steamed red potatoes, mushrooms, red bp, and grilled chicken.