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Friday Fitness: Attack the Hills!

I am a HUGE Tour de France fan and for those of you who don’t follow along, le Tour is in full swing right now!! Today is stage 19 from Modane Valfréjus to Alpe-d’Huez. This is known as “the stage everyone is afraid of”. It is the last stage before the individual time trial and then the Tour’s conclusion on the cobblestones of the Champs- Elysees in Paris on Sunday!

 le tour

Today’s stage is a short one (by Tour de France standards) but it is steep!  These guys are incredible to watch, and to anyone who has ever clicked into a lighter gear to make it up an upcoming hill, you know how hard they are working.

For today’s Fitness Friday workout, inspired by le Tour, we are taking on hill intervals! You don’t have to be training for the Tour de France to get a huge benefit from including these intervals into your workout routine.

Hill intervals are great because it helps build up leg strength and endurance. This can increase speed through a higher stride frequency. Stride length is improved by increase knee lift when powering up the incline.  On the bike it can help as well with pedal skills and leg turnover.

Hill running can also help build muscle endurance in the quadriceps, hip flexor and extensor muscle groups.  You can attack those hills either on a run or bike outside, or inside on the treadmill, elliptical, nu-step, or recumbent bike.

Ways to include Hill Intervals into your workout plan:

For runs outside:

  • Hill repeats. Find a hill of moderate length and incline. Run up, leaning forward at the waist into the hill, pumping arms to drive forward. The goal is to reach the top at the same speed which you began. Jog down the hill for a full recovery. Repeat 4 to 5 times. Add this interval onto your cardio workout.

For bike outside:

  • 4×4 hill repeats. Find a hill that takes about 4 mins to climb. Climb hard for 4 mins up the hill, then allow yourself 4 mins to cruise down and recover. Start with 3 repeats and gradually work up to 8. You will see an increase in fitness on both hills and flat roads.

For treadmill, elliptical, bike, nu-step

  • Our treading class here @ H3 is a great method of incorporating hill intervals into your workout. Check out the “Find a Workout” link under the Fitness tab. You will find a treading plan for the treadmill as well as for the elliptical, bike, and nu-step.  Print it out, pump up the music and imagine you favorite H3 instructor is there shouting and cheering you on!
  • Another excellent resource is the hill climb (interval) program that is an option on most pieces of exercise equipment. Select that program option, input time and resistance, and you can be off climbing in the Alps racing for the polka dot jersey. The program takes the guess work out of establishing a hill plan.

Hill intervals add variety and increased benefit in the forms of increased muscle endurance, speed and stamina.  Regardless if you are a fan of the Tour or not, try to catch some of the final day in Paris on Sunday.  It is an exciting event, and you can’t beat the back drop of the Champs Elysees!  Remember, no matter what hill comes into your life…Attack it!! Au Revior!

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