...is not Crossfit or Zoomba or that 4 Minute Miracle exercise device as seen in SkyMall. The fastest way to get in shape is not even dead lifts or miserable single leg squats.
Some of the above may be important components of a well rounded, long-term training program. But the one thing that will get you in shape the quickest is undoubtedly hill sprints.
Yes there's gold in them thar hills. If you sprint the hill, you will be able to do just about anything.
Why are hill sprints so valuable?
Hill sprints are simple. All you need are shoes. And a hill. If your local topography offers no hills, you should seriously consider relocating. Hill Sprints know that's just how awesome they are.
Hill sprints are relatively safe. The graded surface allows you to pour out total body effort with only a fraction of the pounding to your joints (less loading cycles and impact than standard jogging, plyometric training, etc). At the same time that Hill Sprints are coddling your joints, they are mocking and laughing at what you look like pushing full throttle but actually moving at a snails pace.
Hill sprints are super efficient. You run hard (or walk fast or jog, depending on your fitness level and abilities) up a hill, stroll down, and repeat. Try doing that 5 or 10 times and see how well your "I don't have time to get in shape" holds up. Hill Sprints have a zero tolerance policy toward lame excuses.
As awesome as hill sprints are, pushing too hard, too soon at anything runs the risk of problems.
Achilles tendon problems, though unlikely, may be exposed due to the biomechanical shift of running uphill. If you're not used to the acceleration of sprinting, you will benefit greatly from rolling starts of light jogging that progresses to faster jogging before breaking to (your) top speed.
Hill sprints will absolutely tax your cardiopulmonary system to the max. Seriously, Hill Sprints are no respecter of hearts, and you don't want to be found in the gutter. Maybe your "sprint" interval looks more like a speed walk or an uphill jog, and you build from there.
There have been times when full throttle hill sprints have left me dizzy and numb for 15 or 20 minutes, though this may also have something to do with my inability to go easy when I've neglected the hill for a while. And my tendency to drink coffee on an empty stomach before workouts.
So go find a moderate hill (we're not talking ski slope grade) somewhere between 50 and 80 yards. Or thereabout. Make due with what you have close to home. Warm up a while, then go to battle. Lean into the hill when it's most miserable.
One other drawback is that hill sprints are difficult. Hill Sprints know that there's no such thing as quick and easy. The rule is that no matter how fit you are, the Hill always wins. If the hill didn't kick your ass, you're not doing your sprint interval hard enough.
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