Elevate Your Fitness

By elevating your treadmill

By: Rick Morris

I’ve been a running coach and personal trainer for more years than I like to admit. During those years of coaching I have heard many different excuses for not exercising. They range from the ridiculous and outrageous to the absurd and laughable.  Here is just a brief sample of some of the excuses I have heard:

•    I don’t like to sweat
•    I’m too out of shape to exercise
•    Exercise is uncomfortable
•    Exercise is boring
•    I don’t need to lose weight
•    I only have a certain number of heart beats and I want to same them

There are many more excuses where those came from. There is no limit to the number of excuses people will come up with for not exercising, but there is one excuse that shows up more often than any other – lack of time. Not having enough time for exercise is by far the number one excuse given for not exercising. Almost all of these excuses have no basis in fact.  Lack of time is the exception to that rule. There is no doubt that many of us have very busy schedules. It can be a challenge to find time for your daily exercise routine. Even though it can be difficult to find time to exercise you can’t allow that to become an excuse. You find time to eat, bathe, work and meet with friends. You can also find 30 minutes a day for exercise. Without a fit, healthy body you may not be able to continue to work or enjoy the company of your friends.

To maximize your fitness level you need to train a number of different body systems. You need to improve your muscular strength, your bone density, cardiovascular fitness and stamina. You also want to maintain a healthy body weight. That is a lot of different types of training you need to do. All of those different workouts further complicate your time problems. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was one workout that would do all of those things? Sure it would, but there isn’t one workout that does it all – or is there?

I have some news that is good for some and bad for others. There is a workout that does it all – hill running. This is good news for those of you that truly have a problem with fitting exercise into your daily schedule. It’s bad news for you folks out there that just use time as an excuse – you can’t use it anymore. Hill training is a unique workout because it is a multi use exercise.

Hill training provides all of the following benefits:

Builds Muscular Strength – Running uphill requires much more muscle activation than running on level terrain. You are lifting more of your body weight with each stride. You are also moving through a larger range of motion which brings more muscle fibers into play. You are building more than just your leg muscles. Uphill running also requires more use of the core stabilizing muscles in your trunk and the driving muscles of your upper body.

Improves Bone Density – Any activity that places stress on your bones will increase your bone density. Hill running does this in two ways. The additional impact of running both uphill and downhill increases the stress directly on your bones. The added forces on your muscles also places additional stress where your muscles attach to your bones.

Increases Cardiovascular Fitness – An exercise that raises your heart rate will improve your cardiovascular fitness. Running on level ground does a good job of that, but running uphill is even better. The uphill running raises your heart rate to higher levels than running over flat ground. A higher exercise heart rate will further improve your cardiovascular fitness.

Builds Your Stamina – Your stamina is a measure of how long you can exercise at a moderate to high intensity. The major limiting factor in your stamina is how your body deals with lactic acid. Your body produces lactic acid at all times. It is part of the energy producing processes in your body. Lactic acid is produced quicker when you exercise at more intense levels. Eventually you reach an exercise intensity at which the lactic acid is produced faster than your body can process it. This point is called your lactate threshold. If you can improve your body’s ability to process that lactic acid you will also improve your stamina. The best way to do that is by exercising at or near your lactate threshold. Hill running can raise the intensity of your exercise to that level.

Weight Loss – The formula for weight loss is a simple one. If you burn more calories than you are consuming you will lose weight. There are two ways you can burn more calories – exercise longer or exercise harder. Since time management is a problem you should concentrate on exercising harder. If you haven’t already figured this out – running uphill is hard. The additional energy required to run uphill will burn more calories and help you lose weight.

There is one big problem many people run into when it come to hill training – lack of hills! It can be very difficult to find hill to run on. This is one of the greatest advantages of the treadmill. You can make your own hills. You can make long hills, short hills, steep hills and gentle hills. There are an unlimited number of possible hill workouts you can do on your treadmill. Here are just a few to get you started.

Beginner Hills

This is an entry level hill workout. The maximum incline for this workout is a moderate 5%. The moderate elevation will allow a hill newbie to gradually your improve running strength and also beef up those all important tendons and muscles that support your knees, hips and ankles. Set your treadmill speed at to your normal level ground easy running pace. Keep that pace steady throughout this workout. The pace may not feel easy due to the incline, but keep the pace steady.

•    Set your treadmill incline to 1% and warm up with 10 to 15 minutes of easy running
•    Increase the incline to 2% and run for 5 minutes
•    Set the incline to 3% and run for 5 minutes
•    Raise the incline to 4% and run for another 5 minutes
•    Now reduce the incline to 2% for 5 minutes of running
•    Increase the incline to 5% and run another 5 minutes
•    Finally, decrease the incline to 2% and run for 5 minutes
•    Cool down with 5 minutes of running at 1% incline

Hill Fartlek

Yeah – I know that’s a funny word, but it isn’t a poor attempt at bathroom humor. Fartlek is actually a Swedish word that means “speed play”. In runner’s lingo in is a fun, unstructured workout in which you vary your pace throughout your workout. Here I have adapted it for hill running. If there is such a thing as a “fun” hill workout, this is it. You decide when to throw in a hill and how steep to make it. You decide how far to run up the hill. You also decide what pace to run.

Make this run different each time you do it. When you perform this run don’t plan it in advance. Just go with the flow and do whatever you feel like doing. The only rule is that you must change both the pace and elevation frequently – at least once every few minutes. Throw is a little bit of everything. Do some long hills and some short hills. Run fast on some hills and at a more moderate pace on others. For your first workout run for 20 minutes. Add 5 minutes to your run each time you do this. Gradually work up to a 60 minute hill fartlek workout.

5K Hill Simulator

The beginner hills workout was an easy one. Hill fartlek was a bit more difficult. This one is very difficult, but your benefits are huge. This hill run uses short hill repeats done at a fast pace with easy paced recovery intervals. The hard repeats should be done at a pace that feels hard. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 equaling no effort and 10 equaling maximal effort you should be running at a level 8 to 9. The easy recovery intervals should feel easy. This is not only a great hill workout but is also a good workout if you are training for a 5K race. The total distance of this workout is just over the 5K distance – 3.25 miles with much of it at a quality pace.

•    Set your treadmill incline at 1% and warm up with ½ mile of easy running
•    Increase the incline to 3% and run at a hard pace for ¼ mile.
•    Decrease the incline to 1% and continue running at a hard pace for ¼ mile
•    Leave the incline at 1% but decrease your speed to an easy pace for ¼ mile
•    Increase the treadmill incline to 5% and increase your speed to a hard pace for ¼ mile
•    Decrease the incline to 1% and continue running at a hard pace for ¼ mile
•    Leave the incline at 1% but decrease your speed to an easy pace for ¼ mile
•    Raise the incline to 8% and increase your speed to a hard pace for ¼ mile
•    Decrease the incline to 1% and continue running at a hard pace for ¼ mile
•    Leave the incline at 1% but decrease your speed to an easy pace for ¼ mile
•    Increase the incline to 10% and increase your speed to a hard pace for ¼ mile
•    Decrease the incline to 1% and decrease your speed to an easy pace for ¼ mile

Happy Treading!