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Spring forward to your summer body in 30 minutes or less

Monday - 4/8/2013, 11:21am  ET

Running_TS.jpg
Running hill sprints is a great way to burn fat in a short amount of time. (Thinkstock)

Josef Brandenburg, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Believe it or not, spring is officially 25 percent over, which means summer is right around the corner. And with summer comes the beach, the pool, bathing suits and that frequently asked question, "Do I look fat in this?"

For years I avoided the pool and beach by getting "sick" or being "too busy." I would make up any excuse to avoid walking around with my shirt off because I was embarrassed of the way I looked.

Ironically, I was working out a lot, doing an hour of traditional cardio in the morning, followed by traditional weight lifting and even more "cardio" in the evenings. This was 12 hours or more per week of exercise, and I still avoided taking my shirt off.

There is a happy ending: I now enjoy going to beach in the summer, and feel good about taking off my shirt. I lost the fat and have kept it off by exercising less -- just 3-4 hours per week. I got rid of all of my "traditional" cardio (like spending an hour on the elliptical machine), and replaced it with total-body resistance training and high-intensity interval training.

When the weather is nice, one of my favorite ways to complete my interval training is with hill sprints.

Here's why hill sprints are so fantastic:

  • Hill sprints work really well for fat-loss. Research shows that high-intensity interval training yields 450 percent better results in half the time.

  • They make running much easier on your feet, knees and hips. In normal jogging, each mile has 1,500 impacts at 5 times your body weight with no recovery period. That is a lot of impact. However, if you sprint uphill, the ground comes up to meet your foot, which decreases the impact. Additionally, you can only keep up a sprint for 30-60 seconds at a time before your legs and lungs force you to take a break. The shorter distance means that there is much less continuous impact and your muscles get a chance to recover so they can actually do their job -- cushion your joints.

  • Hill sprints make it hard to run with bad technique -- it's a self-limiting exercise. Modern running shoes make a sloppy running technique comfortable because of all the cushioning. Runners don't notice the beating on their feet, knees, hips and lower back until much later on when they've accumulated millions of poor impacts.

  • It makes for a short workout. You'll see when you go out and try these. Better results, more safety, less time.

Hill sprints: Here's how you can get started:

  • Go find a hill, especially one that is long enough. Ideally you want to run fast for 10-20 seconds without running out of hill. You also want a fairly steep hill: 30 percent grade or more.

  • Warm up. In an ideal world, spend the first five minutes foam rolling, followed by five minutes jogging and running up the hill and walking down to make sure your muscles and connective tissue are nice and warm.

  • Sprint up the hill for 10 seconds. Go fast enough that you need the break after 10 seconds.

  • Walk back to the start and when 50 seconds have passed, sprint back up for 10 seconds. Repeat for 10 rounds in total.

  • Cool down with five minutes of walking. If you want to be fancy, you can foam roll as well after your heart rate slows down.

  • Progress your workout. Try to add one or two rounds per week, until you hit 15 or 20 rounds in total. (You may never make it to 20 rounds, and that is fine.) Do this workout two-to-four days per week, and you'll be happier with how you look in your bathing suit when summer rolls around.

Editor's Note: Josef Brandenburg is a D.C.area fitness expert with 14 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book "Results Fitness." In 2004, he started The Body You Want personal training program, which specializes in helping you get the body you want in the available time you have.

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