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It’s simply not that simple – EARN IT

So I love the current basic fitness recommendation – lift heavy things, sprint occasionally and move often.

But is it really that simple?

Let me state my favorite answer ever…”Yes…But….No….” (You could substitute this with my other favorite answers “It depends” or “Maybe.”)

The reason it isn’t that simple is because many people’s bodies are so de-conditioned from years and years of doing NOTHING.

So while yes…everyone should lift heavy things and sprint, many people need to start out a lot slower than they do.

I’ve said this before, but just because you CAN lift a weight or run really fast doesn’t mean your body is really ready to handle the strain!

Doing too much to quickly will result in injury. Remember…Everything is relative. If your body is de-conditioned, heavy and sprint are very RELATIVE terms.

At the beginning, especially if you haven’t been doing much of anything, MOVE OFTEN is your main priority.

But not only moving often…MOVING WELL.

MOVING WELL…

I know it’s probably getting boring and I’ve been harping on it a lot, but every good program needs to start with MOBILITY and STABILIZATION.

And from there, you must EARN tougher exercises.

You don’t just get to do harder variations and more weight…You have to EARN IT.

There is no better way to motivate yourself than to make yourself want to EARN something more.

So today I want to talk about earning SPRINTING.

More recently I’ve talked more about sprinting because it is one of the few cardiovascular activities that I actually enjoy. And while I think sprinting is great, just like lifting heavy, it isn’t something you just go out and do super intensely your first time.

For one, like lifting, there is actually proper form for running…And let me tell you…there are a lot of people who actually run incorrectly.

Many people don’t run correctly because they stopped doing it when they stopped having gym class in like middle or high school and then didn’t start up again till their mid-twenties.

Many people also don’t run correctly because their body is more used to sitting in a chair hunched over a desk than it is to running or moving around.

When you sit at a desk, your hips are flexed. Your hip flexors can become shortened and tight. Tight hip flexors don’t allow for proper running mechanics. They also don’t allow for proper power generation. If your hip flexors are tight, most likely your glutes won’t be firing on all cylinders.

If you glutes are firing properly, then guess what?

Another muscle will have to compensate to help you run quickly…And that other muscle won’t really be able to handle the load, which means….INJURY!

(Random factoid: Guess what one of the most common running injuries is? HAMSTRING STRAIN! Guess what is tight because you sit all day? YOUR HAMSTRING! Guess what muscle often helps the hip flexors when the glutes don’t fire? YOUR HAMSTRING. Guess what muscle being tight, and even overused because it is compensating, can also lead to knee pain? YOUR HAMSTRING!)

I could go on about the other ways in which your everyday posture hinder you from potentially running properly, but you get the point.

Sitting to sprinting with no preparation means injury.

So the first step if you want to sprint is foam rolling, mobility exercises and activation exercises. Open up those hips and loosen up those adductors. Start activating and strengthening the core. Work on ankle mobility. And get those glutes firing!

Then you need to work on building your aerobic base. Your heart is a muscle too and it also needs to be ready for sprinting! Start with walking. Don’t go 50 miles on the first day. WORK YOUR WAY UP and SLOWLY increase your mileage.

Then if you have done the proper mobility and activation work, start jogging.

JOGGING will be your first step toward sprinting. You can use jogging at a comfortable pace to increase your aerobic capacity and your first “sprints” will be done at a pace that is more like jogging than 100% effort. You must slowly increase your pace as your body adapts!

Also, “sprinting” uphill to start is a great way to prevent common injuries as you work on becoming more mobile. Sprinting uphill prevents you from overstriding, which is a common cause of hamstring strains. Ground reaction forces are also much lower, which means less risk of injury!

Oh Big Red...You and I will meet again for sprints soon.

Oh Big Red…You and I will meet again for sprints soon.

As you gain strength, mobility and speed sprinting uphill (and shoot sprinting uphill is freaking super tough!), you may then want to bring your sprints down to a flat surface. Although I must say while sprinting uphill can be a good starting spot, it is freaking super tough even when you don’t sprint all out and should be included even after you have “progressed” to a flat surface.

Make sure that, no matter what you sprint on (flat or hill), you increase your speed slowly and make sure you are warm when you do finally go all out on sprints.

At the beginning, make sure to give yourself adequate rest. You don’t want to push too hard through fatigue at the beginning. Pushing fatigued muscles too hard can result in injury – actually fatigue drives injury rates way way way up in the athletic world.

As you PROGRESS, you can start decreasing rest and upping the volume. While you don’t need to do a million sprints to get the benefit (actually if you are doing a million sprints or feel the need to do that many you are doing something wrong and hindering your progress), you should be able to add on more sprints as you progress.

And last but not least when it comes to sprinting, don’t do it too often. Just like with lifting, you need to give muscles ample time to recover!

Remember even once you’ve EARNED IT, the rule says “sprint occasionally.”

As much as it pains me to say this, “There is such a thing as too much of a good thing!”

Do you sprint? Have you EARNED it?

Strength training is dinner? Cardio is dessert?

If you want to lift and do cardio on the same day, which goes first?

Do you strength train before you do your cardio or do you do your cardio first?

Well…It depends.

Love that answer don’t you?!?

It all comes down to what you are training for!

What is most important to help you reach your goals? What are you trying to accomplish with the workout? What type of strength training and cardio are you planning to do that day?

How you organize your workout IS very important!

For example, if you are doing a glute and hamstring strength training day, you probably don’t want to sprint after since that would put you at risk for hamstring strains. If you really need to sprint that day you may want to sprint BEFORE the workout.

OR you could plan it so you sprint the day before your glute/hamstring day if that lifting day is super important to you.

What it all comes down to is what you are trying to work.

If your lift is the most important part of the workout, you probably don’t want to do cardio before as that could fatigue you and deplete your energy stores so that you aren’t fresh for your workout.

If your cardio training is most important and your lifts are simply supplementary and more about strengthening your cardio, you will want to put your cardio first.

Putting cardio first could also pre-fatigue you for your lift, which has its own sport benefits. Sometimes in sports where an athlete has to generate a ton of strength and power after already being fatigued, workouts that pre-fatigue can be good.

As I said before….IT ALL DEPENDS!

However, your only options aren’t cardio first and strength training second or strength training first and cardio second.

You could also do a metabolic day, which means that cardio and strength training occur at the same time!

During these workouts you probably won’t lift as much as you do on normal strength days or sprint as fast as you do on cardio days, BUT you will get incredible benefits out of the metabolic workout!

Metabolic workouts may be done by either using lighter weights and moving quickly between exercises to get your heart rate up (aka strength training that is cardio) OR by doing quick cardio bursts like some sort of sprinting followed by a few weighted exercises (aka cardio and strength training alternating to keep your heart rate up).

While there are a few sports like powerlifting, where a ton of metabolic days might not be included, all the rest of us should most definitely include a few of these. They help you burn fat and improve your performance endurance.

So if you aren’t worried about lifting the heaviest weight you’ve ever lifted or you aren’t worried about running the fastest mile you’ve ever run, but are more worried about burning a ton of fat and improving your endurance, a metabolic workout may be right for you (although you shouldn’t do it every day).

While strength training before cardio puts the emphasis on strength training and cardio before strength training puts the emphasis on cardio (or on performing after being fatigued), metabolic workouts put the emphasis on improving lactic threshold and remaining strong and powerful for longer before fatiguing! (Also, while all workouts have the potential to help you burn fat, metabolic days are probably some of the best at it!)

So again, how you organize your cardio and strength training in your workout is all dependent upon your goals.

Give your workouts some thought before you step into the gym and I guarantee you’ll get better results than if you just throw them together once you get there!

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