Why Cardio Is Not The Way to Burn Fat

From the time I was in middle school I learned that hill sprinting was a great way to stay fit, lean, strong and powerful.

When I was 18 years old, way back in 1987, the greatest workout of my Senior track season was to run up a hill called Shepherd’s Crook. From the name you can probably tell that it was a road that went straight, then bent to the right and finally bent to the right again… a total of about 300 yards, all uphill.

This hill became a staple of my training, all the way up to qualifying for the state track and field meet.

I also ran a whole lot of stairs during high school. Again, some of the best workouts of my life. Looking back, I remembered how great my whole body felt after those workouts.

I can also tell you that I have never been as strong, as fast or as in shape as when I was running hills and stairs.

In 1993, as I began my coaching career I continued to have my athletes run hills and stairs. It helped track and field, football and other athletes reach the peak of their athletic potential and keep them in great shape.

Even as I coached my athletes to train with this high intensity, I somehow dropped it from my own training. And I paid the price.

Over the years, I replaced muscle with flab and added a few extra pounds of fat on top of it. My weight got higher than it had ever been.

I know now that I had fallen victim to conventional wisdom of the fitness world. During college, studying exercise physiology, I first learned of the “fat-burning” zone for cardio exercise. And I bought it, hook, line and sinker.

It took me years to realize the long bouts of low intensity training in my cardio zone were not the best way to stay young and thin. Not only that, but this type of workout was not for me – I hated it. Too much time, not enough excitement, not enough results. If only I hadn’t spent all that time on the treadmill, the elliptical machine and the recumbent bike… pretty much wasting my time.

I also fell for another line of bull. That, once you turn 30, your metabolism slows down, you get slower, weaker and lose muscle mass… and there’s not a thing you can do about it. I don’t know about you but I didn’t want everything from age 30 on to be downhill (pun intended). The fact of the matter is, they don’t bother to tell you that you can dramatically slow this process down with certain types of exercise! You can maintain and even improve on your fitness your entire life.

Thankfully, I got fed up with how I looked and felt and looked around for something else. It was then that I started reading a lot about the effects of high intensity exercise.

The more I read, the more I became convinced that raising the intensity of my workouts was the way to go. High intensity workouts, like sprinting, built more muscle, burned more fat and cranked up the metabolism to the levels we all enjoyed in our younger years.

And it all made sense. When I was in the best shape of my life, this was the kind of exercise that I did. Sprinting, running hills, running stairs… fast, explosive movements. It was time to add this stuff back to my workouts.

In 2004, I started running sprints again. Not long after (in 2005) I added hill sprints and stair workouts. I quickly saw just how powerful this type of exercise could be. I feel and look better than I have in years and have more energy, strength, power and endurance.

Now, I run sprints on hills or stairs three times per week along with strength training. I use the techniques in this manual to get fantastic results in just a few minutes of sprinting per week. I also coach others on these techniques and have seen the positive effects in them as well.

What I tell the people I coach is to please remember to start slow. Hill sprint workouts can be adapted for everyone to use. From working out for the first time to elite levels of fitness… starting slow and building on your success is key to achieving all of your fitness goals. It won’t take long to start seeing your progress. Take it one day at a time. As Ben Franklin once said, “Make haste slowly”. But, make haste just the same.

Copyright (c) 2007 Tim Kauppinen