How I Got the Walking Woman to Do Sprint Intervals

Tanja Djelevic by Tanja Djelevic | September 15th, 2008 | 3 Comments
topic: Fitness

Recently I was a first-time substitute at a very fancy treadmill studio in one of the affluent neighborhoods in L.A. The studio has top-of-the-line equipment and a stellar reputation, and the clientele is demanding and particular.

I was a bit nervous. I find myself this way almost every time at a new place, but this time was different. Although I have an almost 20-year-long resume (did I really divulge that?! ) in my back pocket, I get anxious about the newness of crowd and style, and especially about connecting with the participants. Will we click? Can I help them and vice-versa? That connection is what inspires me the most. I always have an enthusiastic desire to make everyone jump and shout!

On this day, that connection inspired one woman to test her limits.

I arrived to find a full class. I meet and greet and see a bit of a shyness from their end too. Who is this sub?

A woman in her 30s approaches me and says: “I’m not so good at this running thing, so don’t be offended if I walk.” I reply, as always, “Listen to your body. It will tell you what to do. If you feel like it’s the right time to push yourself, that’s what you do!”

I start up the class. We’re running metabolic sprints. I totally made the word up: It’s just wind sprints on the treadmill in very short intervals. The music is pumping in the background, and soon enough the familiar sounds of Prince’s Raspberry Beret are lifting legs in my class. The sprints are happening! I crack a joke, start feeling more comfortable, and make eye contact with all the runners.

As I’m making my statement that this is the right time to take the body where it hasn’t been before, I catch the eye of the “walker woman.” She is running. And she is not only running: She is sprinting at my suggested pace. She even smiles with her eyes. That is it. The dance has begun. I have a full studio of tread sprinters on fire, and they are now looking for my eyes every time they finish the sprint.

I left the studio that morning with a warm heart and a truly inspired spirit. The women in the room taught me once again that if there is a will, there is a sprint!! Thank you ladies!

You can do my metabolic sprint routine at home. Here’s what the intervals for this class looked like:

  • 5-min. warmup: 4.0 speed, 1% incline
  • 1-min. sprint: 7.5 speed
  • 1-min. recovery walk: 3.5 speed
  • 1-min. sprint: 8.0 speed
  • 1-min. recovery walk: 3.5 speed
  • Another 1-min. sprint: 8.0 speed
  • Increase speed by 0.5; repeat until you reach your ceiling

Start with 7 or 8 sprints at intervals throughout your workout. Then increase to more sprints when you are ready. Do this workout to boost your metabolism and your confidence. It will also, of course, have all he physical benefits you already know about: increased and more effective oxygen intake, increased calorie burn, strengthening of the heart and other muscles, etc., etc.) Doesn’t get any better than this!!




  1. Tanja, can a person get the same benefit from intervals if they’re just walking-fast intervals, not sprinting? Even on the treadmill, I find that when I run hard, my knees end up hurting.

    Mary Jo Cameron | September 16th, 2008 | Comment Permalink
  2. Hi Mary Jo!!
    Thank you for your very GOOD question!! YES, training is relative to your fitness level. A good way to gage how hard you have to work, is to wear a heart rate monitor for example. Your heart rate should be around 160 and up in the higher intervals, and that can be achieved in different ways. If you are someone who has difficulties with knees, other machines might work better for you such as elliptical or stair mill. also if there is only a treadmill available, and steep uphill walk is recommended, which will get your heart rate up there, without running. Something to be said about aching knees: if there is an inflammation which is present because of lack of stretching or myofacial release (the kind of work you do on a foam roller) it can be helped and corrected through some conscious stretch and massage work!! Hop this helps!
    Taja D

    Tanja D | September 21st, 2008 | Comment Permalink
  3. can your suggested exercise be as beneficial as a long (30 min) run?

    I really enjoy sprinting and then walking (in the orders and times you suggested) but I always wonder if am building up any kind of endurance.

    Thanks for your response!

    Lauren | October 1st, 2008 | Comment Permalink

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