When it comes to burning fat and calories I always leave the gym and head for the hills. I know those fancy cardio machines might look like the ultimate fat and calorie torching weapons, but trust me, They don’t even compare to a steep grade.
I know not everyone is fortunate enough to live in an area where the topographical maps resemble a plate of spaghetti (I’m looking at you Florida) but if you are, then you’re in luck! Those neighboring hills and mountains are bar-none the best cardio machines you’ll ever come across. Nothing else even comes close!
Here’s a short list of the great benefits of hill training:
#1- The hill is relentless. You can’t adjust the incline and the intensity unlike on a cardio machine. This means you are forced to work hard whether you want to or not. You can always go up faster though which means your hill workout has 2 settings; hard and harder.
#2- The view at the top is always worth the climb and way better than a screen on a cardio machine.
#3- Did I mention hills are usually free to use?
#4- A hill offers many modes of use. You can walk, run, snow shoe, or ride a bike up. You can also do the same on the way down plus you can ski, or ride a sled as well. Back in Vermont, we used to hike up Mt. Pinnacle with little sleds that we would sit on with our legs out in front of us. That was more fun than a roller coaster!
#5- In the interest of burning fat and calories hills win hands down. This is due to the fact that burning a lot of calories is often a case of just putting in the time. Using stationary cardio equipment can be a form of mental torture for even 20 minutes. Hills on the other hand are different. Here in Colorado, it’s not uncommon for me to ride in the Rockies for hours at a time. Back in Vermont I would hike mt. Mansfield for 3-4 hours at a stretch. Just think, you can get more exercise on a hill or mountain in an afternoon than most gym rats get in a whole week!
#6- Hills are both eccentric and concentric. What goes up must go down and walking or running down a hill is a very different workout than going up. A machine that only places resistance on the back stroke of a step is only half a workout. Going up as well as down will keep your legs and joints stronger as well as sculpt your legs unlike anything else.
#7- Speaking of sculpting, nothing will shape your glutes, hamstrings calves and quads like placing a foot down and then stepping up over that planted foot. Stepping on imaginary stairs or pedals doesn’t even come close. Sure your heart rate will be sky high but the muscle activation won’t even be close to the same thing.
#8- No one ever took a picture of their elliptical after an hour on it but I dare you to climb any hill or mountain and not be tempted to take a picture at the top. Plus there is the pride that comes from looking up at it from a distance and thinking “I went up that.”
#9- Lastly hill climbing gets you out into the great outdoors, something we don’t do nearly enough of to blow off stress and remind ourselves that there is a fantastic natural world out there.
It’s easy to get started. Just find a hill or mountain and go up it. Remember to bring some water and dress in layers if you’re climbing more than 1,000 vertical feet. Smart phone apps like ALLTRAILS can help you find trails in your area and you can filter the search by hiking, biking, skiing or even bird watching.
If you have any questions about your physical capacity do go see your doctor first. Going up a hill is a workout many people underestimate. Every year Mt. Mansfield gives hundreds of people a serious reality check who consider themselves fit yet struggle to go even half way up.
Okay enough for now. Find a hill and get climbing!