Overcoming Those Obstacles
No matter what your fitness level and experience with exercise, a few simple tips can help you climb that mountain, whether it’s a slight slope in the road along your street, or the steep undulating grade on your favorite walk or hiking trail. The most important thing is to be prepared, set realistic goals, and respect your body and it will take care of you. There is no better feeling than looking back downhill at your accomplishment.
1. Always warm up and cool down. Start and end each workout with a 5-10-minute easy walk on flat. A more specific joint warm up may also be needed for those with joint pain or limited flexibility. It should be an intensity where you could almost sing a song and you could continue at that pace for a long time (30-60+ minutes)
2. Use the talk test. On the tough parts, you should always be able to say a few words into a sentence but maybe not be able to sing a song. Being short of breath is normal as you go uphill or walk at a faster than normal pace, and these intervals of higher intensity exercise are where you increase your fitness level. If you have an unusual change in shortness of breath with exertion, or shortness of breath at rest, consult your doctor or a Certified Exercise Physiologist before starting on a new program. If you have heart condition, asthma, emphysema or COPD, get a more specific exercise prescription prior to starting, and always carry your rescue medications.
3. If you need to stop, never stop completely. When you’ve reached the top of the hill or gone as far as you can go never sit down or stop completely. It’s very hard on your heart to be working hard, and then come to a dead stop. Keep your legs moving gently to maintain blood flow back to your heart.
4. Use walking poles. When used properly, walking poles can help use more of your upper body musculature, help with your balance, and take the load off your joints on the way down.
5. Use large muscles rather than small ones. Step with your whole foot as you take each step, not just the ball of your foot. Keep your core engaged and push up through your heel to maximize the use of your quadriceps and gluteal muscles, rather than your calves.
6. If running downhill, go with the flow don’t resist each step. There will be far less load on your joints if you let your body just go a little when running on decline. Imagine the wheels of a bike rolling forward and try to move efficiently and with ease.
7. Find a nice place to stretch at the end. Pick out a favorite stopping point with a railing or bench to do your stretches. It gives you time to reflect on your accomplishment and stop and enjoy the view. Try to cover all the lower body muscle groups and hold for 30-60 seconds. Hold onto something so that you don’t have to worry about your balance and you can get more out of the stretch.
8. Progress slowly. Add a hill repeat each week or about 15% increase in volume to minimize the risk of injury.