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Try a Hill for a Great Workout

Add hills pic

I love the latest and greatest fitness gadgets that come on to the market every year. The more toys and tools that we have at our disposal to help you, the better. Having said that, at the end of the day, you really don’t need too many things to reach your fitness-related goals. I may not be too popular with fitness equipment sponsors by saying this, but there’s plenty of evidence to support that statement. Of course it depends on your goals,  but if you are simply looking to feel healthy and strong, you’ve got everything you need right in the mirror – your body.

If your goal is to shed fat, increase muscle and improve your conditioning, then we could add one piece of equipment: a hill.

High-intensity interval workouts are all the rage, and for good reason. There is more and more research coming out supporting this quick and effective form of training. From Tabata to circuits to track work, there are loads of options. One of my favorites (and several other Clayton, MO personal trainers): hill sprints.

*Please note that I did not say hill walks or hill runs. If you are healthy and your goal is fat loss, we are performing hill sprints.

Some of the more popular excuses I hear when my Brentwood, MO personal training clients explain to me why they didn’t get their workout in: money and time. Conveniently, the hill eliminates both of these all-too-popular excuses:

1. Money. The last time I checked, running hills is free. You could do a Google search for hills or parks in your area. Of course you could come to my treading class or do a hill on your own treadmill.  In the Spring and Summer, of course, there is always Art Hill at Forest Park.  This is always a favorite of my St. Louis, MO personal training clients.

2. Time. Short, time-efficient, high-intensity hill sprints will have you in and out in under 30 minutes. I’m 100 percent confident you can carve out 30 minutes into your schedule a couple times a week.

Workout Samples

Let’s look at two hill workouts that you could incorporate into your routine.

Beginners: An introduction to hill work

1. Perform a 10- to 15-minute warm-up to ensure that the body is warm and ready.
2. Perform 6 to 8 hill sprints each lasting approximately 20 seconds. The sprints can be broken up into groups of two. Walk back down the hill to allow for enough time between sprints. (Use of a heart rate monitor is recommended to ensure adequate recovery) It’s always better to proceed with caution and progress intelligently.
3. Perform a 10-minute cool-down to aid in recovery.

The work to rest ratio will vary from one person to another; aim for a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio, if possible. For example,  do a 20-second hill sprint followed by 80 seconds of recovery back down the hill before starting the next sprint.

Advanced: A workout I perform frequently with my more fit Brentwood, MO personal training clients.

1. Perform a 10- to 15-minute warm-up to ensure that the body is warm and ready.
2. Perform 12 hills sprints each lasting approximately 30 seconds. The sprints will be broken up into three groups of four sprints. In between each sprint, take 60 seconds to get back down to the start. In between each group of four sprints, take three minutes to recover before starting the next group of four.
3. Perform a 10-minute cool-down to aid in recovery.

Hill work is typically easier on the joints than traditional flat roadwork. Ideally, a grass or dirt hill is the preferred surface. Running uphill will naturally shorten stride length, which will lead to increased force production and a more powerful arm action and upper-body influence. When running uphill, keep proper posture (i.e., slight forward lean without breaking at the hips), drive off the balls of your feet and be sure to incorporate an aggressive arm drive.

As you can see, hill sprints can be a fun, effective, efficient way to help you enjoy the great outdoors or the treadmill. Get this interval work in a couple times a week and watch your fitness goals “climb” uphill.

For more information on hill training, contact Maurie Cofman, C.E.S. personal trainer in St. Louis, Brentwood and Clayton, MO.