It’s hard to maintain your hill fitness when you can’t get to the hills, right?
Well, not necessarily.
Every client that books an expedition with RockRiver Expeditions is sent an information pack. If it’s a hill or mountain expedition that pack includes a hill fitness training plan. We do say in there that the best way to train for hill walking is to walk in the hills. But there are other things you can do. And during this period when we’re being asked to stay home to save lives we need to be creative with how we do that.
Here are our top activities for maintaining your hill fitness when you’re at home, or only allowed out once a day.
First though, we are not fitness instructors! We strongly recommend that you you consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. You should be in good physical condition and be able to participate in the exercise.
Walking and Running
We’re allowed out once a day to exercise. So make the most of it! Trainers on, layer your clothes so you can strip down if you get warm and walk at a pace that gets your heart rate up or run at your own pace. If you can find a hill then great, it’ll help work your calves and hamstrings. Walk or run to the top, go back down then go up again and repeat! If you’re a regular runner consider trying a hill sprints interval session – walking to and from your hill for your warm up and cool down.
If it’s really flat where you live, pop a rucksack on and add a tin or two (or more!) of beans or bottles of water. This will make your legs work harder, it’ll work your core and will keep your shoulders used to carrying a bit of weight.
If you’re able to head off road so much the better. Uneven ground works the smaller tendons and muscles in the ankles, knees and legs which will definitely be needed in the hills.
Stair climbing for hill fitness
You might be confined to your home, or maybe you’re looking to double up your exercise each day. Repeatedly climbing the stairs in your home will help keep your legs strong for the hills.
Again, a weighted backpack will take the exercise up a level – but don’t get carried away and trip up!
HIIT sessions (High Intensity Interval Training)
Joe Wicks is all over it but there are plenty to choose from online or you can make up your own. The idea is that you do a high intensity exercise to raise your heart rate for a set period of time 30 seconds up to 2 minutes usually, then take a 30 second rest before starting another period of exercise. You continue for half an hour. Exercises typically include running on the spot, jumping jacks, burpees, squats, lunges, mountain climbers and so on.
Maintaining your cardio fitness with HIIT will make it easier when you get back to the hills. As HIIT sessions usually have lots of leg exercises included, they are a good way to keep the muscles in your legs working and hill fit.
You can’t go to the gym and that’s frustrating. But if you don’t have a set of weights at home you might find some things around the house that will help you keep on top of your strength training. Most supermarkets sell 5 litre bottles of water for just £1. That’s a five-kilo weight right there. Put it in a rucksack when you do your squats and you’ve taken them to the next level.
Fix a bottle to each end of a broom handle to create a weights bar.
Maybe you have a small child at home – could they sit on your back while you complete your press ups? Or give them a piggy back while you do your squats? Be inventive!
Have you got a bag of builder’s sand in the corner of the garden waiting for that next project you need to do? Fill old pillow cases lined with plastic bags to make bagged weights for Russian Twists and Kettle Bell style workouts.
You might not like the sound of a full HIIT session, so try a regular session of bodyweight exercises to help maintain your hill fitness. Squats, squat jumps, single leg squats, lunges, lunges with dumbbells (or water bottles or food tins), press ups, box jumps, step ups, reverse lunge, burpees, mountain climbers, plank – they will all contribute to your preparation for the hills.
If you have a weight vest it’ll increase the load and therefore the intensity of the session. Or improvise with a weighted rucksack.
If you can get away from the house for your daily exercise a cycle ride makes for a good alternative to running and walking. Mixing up the exercise from day to day is good for your body as it challenges different muscle groups and reduces impact on the same area.
If you can find hills, then challenge yourself with hill repeats.
Cycling off road challenges more muscle groups than road cycling, so again if you can get onto a trail or bridleway then do.
Do your children have a trampoline in the back garden? Will they let you on it for a twenty minute workout?
Trampolining uses every muscle in the body as well as improving balance and agility – both good skills needed for hill and mountain walking.
It is said that just ten minutes of vigorous bouncing up and down can have the same effect on your body as running or jogging for 30 minutes. It’s also good fun, so what are you waiting for?
When we think of mountain and hill fitness we often think of cardio and leg strengthening, but flexibility is important too. Stretching after exercise helps to prevent injury. But as I know from personal experience, regular yoga classes work wonders for tight hamstrings. And it was tight hamstrings that were causing me ankle issues just a few years ago.
You don’t have to be a super elastic piece of spaghetti, able to hook your feet behind your head to do yoga. If flexibility isn’t your thing I recommend Iyengar yoga which uses props to support the body as you hold positions. Yoga with Adriene on You Tube has lots of videos from five minutes to full classes that you can do at home. They will stretch and strengthen your arms, legs, back and core, as well as improve your balance.
What have we missed?
Maybe you’ve found a different way to maintain your hill fitness in these strange times? Let us know what you’re up to. Have you found other weights to use, different online workouts or alternative cardio options?
If you have photographs of your home workouts we’d love it if you posted them in our Facebook group Make Adventures Happen. Who knows, you might inspire someone else to mix up their workout.
And remember, each day of lockdown is a day closer to being allowed out again to play in the hills!