Many of us prefer to run only when it’s a necessity, like when the subway doors are about to close or the fuzz are hot on our trail. Preference aside, running—particularly sprints—is tough to top as a calorie burner. One 2012 study out of Colorado State University and University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus found that just 2.5 minutes of sprinting burned upwards of 200 calories throughout the day.
However, before you lace up your runners, remember that “improper form can lead to muscle pulls or strains,” explains former Philadelphia Eagles tight end turned fitness trainer Kyle Hunt, C.S.C.S.
Your options: Study YouTube videos of Olympic legend Usain Bolt, pony up for a running coach, or get off your ass and find a hill. “Hill sprints limit overstriding, which can protect those easily pulled hamstrings,” Hunt says. “Running on an incline also forces an aggressive arm and shoulder drive, which translates to better sprinting mechanics when you sprint on flat surfaces.
So, in a way, hill sprints act like a running coach.” If you prefer to run indoors on a treadmill, set the incline at 12 to 15 degrees and aim to sprint for 10 to 15 seconds at a clip, Hunt advises.
Regardless of where you run, spend 10 minutes warming up your joints and muscles to prime your body to sprint. After your last hill sprint, walk, jog, and stretch out your lower limbs. “Your heart rate and breathing will return to resting levels, and you’ll rid toxins from muscles to support recovery,” says Hunt.
The sprint workout
Directions: Rest as long as it takes to walk back to the bottom of the hill. Hold each stretch for two seconds.
1. 6-inch hurdle running drill
Pretend you’re stepping over a six-inch hurdle with each stride.
2. Walking hamstring stretch
Reach for the ground in front of your toes. (Keep your grounded knee bent slightly.) Raise the opposite leg for counterbalance.
3. Walking groiner stretch
Take a big step forward, drop your back knee to the ground, and keep your head up as you bring your chest to your extended knee. Place your hands on the floor to maintain balance.
4. Walking quad stretch
While standing, grab one foot and pull it toward your butt. Take one step, then repeat with opposite leg.
5. 12-inch hurdle running drill
Pretend you’re stepping over a 12-inch hurdle with each stride.
6. Hip swing
10 per leg
Stand upright, hold an anchor point, then swing one leg with a straight knee 10 times. Switch legs.
7. Uphill sprint
Repeat six times.