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Sprinting helps build up muscles, fitness pro says

June 4, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Jogging is a pretty popular way to get in shape, but one fitness expert wants you to pick up your pace and push it for a host of health reasons.

Jeff Simonitsch of San Francisco runs three times a week, lifts weights a couple more, yet it was sprinting that seemed to make the difference in his fitness game.

"[I] started to do it because I think it's a better leg workout and it kind of builds up your intensity," said Simonitsch.

Former Olympic sprinter Samantha Clayton wishes more people would give it a go.

"Sprinting is like the weight training of running, so sprinting really builds your muscles up as opposed to breaking them down," said Clayton.

While jogging is good for the heart, it breaks down muscle tissue. But sprinting not only burns massive calories in a short stint, the after burn continues long after you've finished. It also releases growth hormones, which help build the body up - like pumping iron.

"You could go for an hour run and get the same benefits from just sprinting for 15 minutes," said Clayton.

Clayton said try incorporating something called a stride, where you increase your speed from your jog by lengthening your step and utilizing your arms - the key to a solid sprint.

"Your arm drive really corresponds to how your legs are moving. So a nice big arm drive will then transfer to a long stride length," Clayton said.

Obviously, if you haven't jogged or run very long, you wouldn't start sprinting. But Clayton said when you're ready to start, take it uphill.

"The reason why running uphill is fabulous, whether you're a brand new sprinter or whether you're even an Olympic sprinter, is because running uphill makes you work on your form. You can't help but run correctly up a hill," she said.

A slight lean, foot strike on the ball - not heel - and using your arms to get momentum adds resistance.

"Because you're not reaching maximum speed running uphill because it's a lot harder, [there's] less chance of pulling a hamstring uphill then running on the flat," said Clayton.

But walk or lightly jog down - don't run.

"Any physical therapist will tell you one of the things they see most is people running downhill, blowing out a knee," said Clayton.

Clayton suggests mimicking the running moves to warm up. Lift your legs high up to knee level, kick your heels up to the glutes, stand kicking legs up at least waist high for toe touches and pump your arms to warm up all those key areas.

"Once you get off the couch and start moving, it's so much fun and it's free," said Clayton.

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