Hill Fitness Guide!
Go faster, last longer and enjoy the hills more with OM's fitness help.
Fitness is one of those weird things that's hard to pin
down. Sure, you can be generally fit in the sense that you can walk
up the road without collapsing into a wheezing heap and you don't
have any injuries, but beyond that things get more complicated.
Fortunately OUTDOORSmagic is packed with information to help you
get fit and stay fit.
Dashing through the snow - Andrew Terrill from Running
- The Album
It's all about being fit for your activity. To explain what we
mean, look at it like this, both an Olympic 100-metre sprinter and a
marathon runner are 'fit' but in different ways. The sprinter will
have massive explosive power needed to propel himself over short
distances as fast as possible.
The marathon runner, on the other hand, will have a combination of
great localised muscular endurance and general cardio vascular
fitness combined with a system that burns fuel incredibly
Both are as fit, but ask one to do the other's event and you'll
realise that their fitness is very specific. For most OMers, it's all
about being fit for hill and mountain walking, backpacking,
scrambling and maybe climbing or mountaineering.
Let's call it being 'hill fit'...
Runner's High by Marcus Crompton from Running
- The Album
As an experiment we went mountain walking with a heart rate
monitor. What we found was interesting - on flat or downhill
sections, our heart rate dropped dramatically, so our system was
ticking over at quite a low level. Our mucscles were still working,
but metaphorically speaking, our engine was running at quite low
Hit a climb though and things change. Your legs start working
harder as you lift your pack and bodyweight against gravity and your
heart rate rises fast towards the point where you start using more
oxygen than you can process.
Mostly though, you'll pace yourself below this level because you
can only maintain anaerobic activity for a short time. We had to push
really hard to reach the sort of heart rate levels common during
running and, to be honest, most walkers simply won't go that
The more weight you're carrying - both in your pack and as part of
your body - the more mass you'll be lifting with every step and the
harder you'll work. A good reason to lose
weight from both or either.
So far then, it's about being able to maintain a reasonable level
of aerobic activity, which is general endurance, combined with
localised muscular endurance, so your legs can keep working.
That doesn't necessarily mean it's pointless training harder than
you'll be walking though. By working hard - hill running for example
- you'll increase your power right through your rev range, meaning
that you can walk at the same speed for less effort. If you don't
train hard, then you'll stay a plodder...
Running into Cwm Tryfan by Andrew Terrill -
- The Album
To keep your body grinding away over an entire day, you need to
keep it fuelled. With practice you become better at processing food
and slow-burning fat in particular, but you can make your life a lot
easier by eating the right things, both as you're walking and believe
it or not, in advance.
In the morning you're powered largely by what you've eaten the
night before and, to a lesser extent by your breakfast that morning,
get it right and you'll feel the benefits all day.
The same's true of hydration - more information on both in our
star article below.
If you're off on a multi-day backpack or even just a weekend one,
then not only do you need to be able to go all day, but you'll have
to do it all over again next day.
You might think it's just practice and it's true, with use, your
body will adapt to repeated stress, but you can still give it a big
helping hand by treating it well at the end of the day. That means
eating the right things at the right time, maybe doing some gentle
stretching and, erm, perhaps some self-masssage.
More details in our star article below...
Training Off The Hill
If you're lucky enough to live in a hilly area where you can walk
regularly then your body will adapt relatively quickly, though
training specifically to improve aspects of your fitness will also
help - hill running, for example, will both strengthen the muscles
you use while walking and turbo-charge your cardio-vasular
If on the other hand you're stuck in the big city and can only get
away for the occasional weekend, you can still train for the hill
using the gym and the pavement. Our next star article tells you
Just scroll down for a selection of articles covering everythingLoads More Health And Fitness Information On OUTDOORSmagic
from training to dealing with common injuries and even minimising the
risk of the common cold, yes, it is possible :-)
And for even more information, check out our Health
and Fitness section.