Tuesday, April 24, 2007

To Hill and Back

Ask Glen

Q. I want better form, more speed better endurance ! How do I achieve this?

A. Do this!

ou may not know it, but every treadmill comes factory equipped with a "faster results" button. Push it and you'll burn more fat, build stronger legs, and boost your fitness level to an all-time high -- without adding a second to your workout. There's just one problem: This magical interface is labeled "incline" on the control panel. And that means hardly anyone touches it.

It's easy to understand why: Running on a grade is harder, even though your pace is slower than on a flat surface. But that extra effort is the driving force of a more efficient workout. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that uphill running activates 9 percent more muscle each stride compared with exercising at the same relative intensity on level ground.

And if you're not dialing up the incline, you're practically running downhill: English scientists determined that a 1 percent treadmill elevation is needed just to replicate the energy requirements of running on an outdoor track.

Of course, that hill up the road can accomplish the same thing. Feel free to attack it -- just follow our advice. Hills deliver an exhilarating workout and great results for racers, from a PR in your weekend 5-K to Meb Keflezighi's silver medal in the Athens Olympic Marathon, which came after he added extra hill work to his training.

Either way, moving your workout to higher ground yields greater dividends from the same time investment. Because you can control the degree of incline, treadmills provide an added benefit beyond protection from the elements. "Exercising on a machine allows you to structure hill work that is very specific to your goals and level of fitness," says Rick Morris, author of Treadmill Training for Runners.

Ramp up your workout and tap the full potential of your treadmill with our guide to indoor hill training -- it's as easy as pushing a button.

The Workouts

Choose the workout that best fits your goals, or rotate workouts. Varying your approach each session is a great way to reap the benefits of each type of training while banishing boredom. Before each workout, warm up for 5 to 10 minutes by walking or jogging at an easy pace.

The Gut Buster

Your goal: Fat loss

Carrying extra pounds makes running harder and increases your risk of overuse injuries, particularly to the knees. But a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that an uphill grade of just 3 degrees reduces leg shock by 24 percent. That's why this workout from Men's Health contributing editor Michael Mejia, C.S.C.S., intensifies by incline, not speed. "It not only eases the stress on your knees, but also increases the involvement of your hips and hamstrings, which quickly elevates heart rate and calorie burn," says Mejia.

Warm up, then increase the belt speed to 4 mph for 3 minutes. That's enough for a fast walk. (Most people don't need to break into a run on a flat surface until at least 4.5 mph.) Maintain that speed for the duration of the workout and simply adjust the incline according to the chart below. You'll notice that the session grows more difficult as you pro-gress, so be prepared to push harder as you go.

If it's too hard: Lower the grade to 0 percent for each 2-minute segment, while keeping the 1-minute intervals as shown in the chart.

Time Grade
1 min 2%
2 min 0%
1 min 4%
2 min 2%
1 min 6%
2 min 4%
1 min 8%
2 min 6%

If it's too easy: Set your speed to 4.5 mph for the duration, or simply continue the wavelike progression as long as possible. (So your next step would be a 10 percent grade for 1 minute, followed by an 8 percent grade for 2 minutes.)

our goal: Maximum endurance

Swedish researchers found that marathoners who ran hills for 12 weeks improved their running economy by 3 percent. This translates to a 2-minute reduction in your 10-mile time and 6 minutes off a marathon -- without exerting any more effort in the race. To put that in perspective, consider that 6 minutes was the difference between a medal and 26th place in the 2004 Olympic Marathon. For you, it might mean breaking 4 hours in your first marathon or setting a personal best in your next 10-K.

"This workout features steep, gradual, and rolling hills, bringing all the aspects of hill training into one session," says Morris. You'll be able to recover energy on the short hills in order to charge the long climbs. Set the treadmill to a speed that's about 90 seconds slower than your normal mile pace. So if you usually run 8-minute miles (7.5 mph), set the treadmill to 6.3 mph, the speed equivalent of a 9-minute mile. Then change the incline of the treadmill at the indicated mile marker.

Mile marker Elevation
0 to 1 1%
1 to 2 2%
2 to 2.5 5%
2.5 to 3 2%
3 to 3.5 8%
3.5 to 4 2%
4 to 4.5 5%
4.5 to 5 2%

If it's too hard: Stop when you've had enough, and progress by trying to run 10 seconds longer in your next workout.

If it's too easy: Repeat as many segments as you can, starting at the first mile marker.

The Mountain Challenge

Your goal: Sports conditioning

Over the years, professional athletes have used hill training to prepare. And no venue is better known than "the Hill" -- a steep 5-mile trail in San Carlos, California's Edgewood Park. It was the site of the legendary off-season training program of former San Francisco 49er and Oakland Raider Jerry Rice for more than 20 years. The rigors of the perpetual ascent simultaneously improve physical conditioning and mental toughness, the X factor of athletic performance.

Use this mountain workout from Morris and you can train there, too -- even if you live in Wichita. After your warmup, raise the treadmill grade to 5 to 8 percent (lower for beginners, higher if you're a seasoned vet). Then set the speed to a pace that's about 3 minutes slower than your best mile time. So if you can run a mile in 7 minutes (8.5 mph), you'll set the speed to the equivalent of a 10-minute mile pace, which is 6 mph. Run at that speed and grade for as long as you can maintain conversation in short spurts (three or four words at time). Once you're breathing too hard to talk, shut it down and record your distance. You should strive to run a little farther -- even if it's just 1⁄10 of a mile -- each time you repeat the workout. One to 2 miles is good for starters; make it to 5 and you're ready for the hall of fame.

Please consult your physician before starting any diet or exercise program

Wishing You Great Health,

Glen Edward Mitchell

Got a question? Ask Glen!

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Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States
Is the Founder of Fitness Builders 4 Life,the WorkOut GEM,G350,G180, G90, Eat 4 Life, Clean, Lean & Mean & Ask Glen. The mission of the Fitness Builders is to provide the community with health education and to empower people to change unhealthy lifestyles thereby increasing life expectancy. By educating the community on healthier lifestyle practices it is the intent of Fitness Builders to reduce the ravages of obesity, heart disease, cancer and other lifestyle or self inflicted diseases. Glen is also a AMA Certified Nutrition Specialist and a ACE, ACSM, NASM Certified Personal Trainer has 30+ years in Sports, Exercise Science and Nutritional Food Management, Learning and Mentoring Men and Women on a more Mental & Physical Healthy Life Style consisting of a low fat, low salt, Low carbohydrate, high protein, organic nutrition which also includes moderate exercise and mental awareness. Stay Informed, Live long and be Mentally and Physically Healthy! Any questions? Ask Glen!

Any Questions? Ask Glen!