Last time, I spoke of how I changed my diet to help me drop 50 lbs over the summer. Now I will go over the other half of the equation: burning calories. There are two ways to burn calories: engage in physical activity, and metabolism.
You can probably reach weight loss goals by just enough cutting calories and allowing your metabolism to burn off the calories you eat, but engaging in physical activity will not only accelerate the weight loss process, but also provide you with several physical and mental health benefits.
If you are going to try to do what I did (at least the physical activity component), PLEASE start off slow, especially if you are out of shape.
Since I often became out of breath walking up a couple flights of stairs, I knew I had to start out slowly. I got a membership to a local gym, hit the elliptical, and did bit of free weight training. For home, I bought a few Biggest Loser workout videos as well as wii fit. I kept at it and things were going well – the pounds started slowly coming off and just as importantly, my fitness was improving. As the days and weeks progressed, I could go longer at tougher levels on the elliptical and the workout videos became less challenging.
The "one" exercise.
Summer was starting and with an improved fitness base, I really wanted to ramp up my weight loss. I did some Internet research and came up with the perfect fat burning exercise: hill sprints.
Benefits of hill sprints
- It is free, and no equipment needed
- It is safe in terms of less chance of pulling muscles, as your limbs are not attaining full speed.
- Most importantly, it is effective. Not only does the workout itself torch many calories, but also the intense nature of this interval workout keeps your metabolism revving hours after the fact.
Fortunately, I live close to my old Junior High School, which has a soccer field and track sunken in a big bowl. Makes for awesome sledding in the winter, but even better for conditioning and weight loss when there was no ice and snow.
Again, I started off slow. I picked the smallest hill and jogged up 10 times. It was tough, but I kept at it, every second day, hit the same hill. After a week or so, it started becoming easier, so I increased the number of repetitions as well as my speed.
The first hill:
After a few weeks of that I graduated to the bigger hills of the bowl. I never measured these hills, but I would say they are about 50-75 yards long depending where in the bowl they are located and have an angle of slightly more than 45 degrees in some places.
The Stonepark bowl:
I would run up the hill as fast as I could, then walk down for recovery. This is what I did three or four times a week for the summer of 2008. On off days, I would do wii fit or a Biggest Loser workout video.
By the end of the summer my workout consisted of 30-35 hill sprints. I weighed 50 lbs less!
I remember a few years before going to get some burgers from McDonalds. On the way home, I got stuck at an intersection. There was a race going on. Here I was munching on a greasy Quarter Pounder, watching these runners go by. At first I felt pretty annoyed about being held up. Then I started feeling envious of the runners. They were doing something I could not do and never would be able to. Well I was right about not being able to then, but wrong about never being able to.
The hill sprints opened a whole new world to me. It made me the most fit I have been in my life, including when I played football and rugby in high school. I remembered that day waiting at the intersection watching the runners go by with a greasy burger in my hand. So I went for 5K run. I ran it easily without stopping once. Surprisingly, the intense short bursts of activity also greatly improved my aerobic capacity and I was able cover longer distances without specifically training for it. The next summer, I entered in a 10K race that ironically crossed that same intersection. I probably felt more satisfaction going by that intersection that I did at the finish line of the race.
I am not going to lie to anyone. Hill sprints are tough and not overly enjoyable. But if your goal is to lose fat and get in great physical condition quick, I can’t think of any better way.