Friday, 18 April 2014

My Gym-to-Hills Workout Programme

Alternative Title: Felled by Fell

And that will almost certainly be my cause of death. Now I don't mean a tragic fall or a bad bang on the head, but literally running out of puff halfway up a hill.

Pictured: Not That.
When this nearly happened half way up Lose Hill (!!) last month, I knew it was time to find a way to get hill-ready for the next adventure.

Especially as the Yeti made it clear that he did not appreciate being made to wait more than usual:
«Grump

But while it was easy to keep in shape last year with regular(ish) trips to the Peaks, wanders around the countryside near my home, and an exercise bike in the bedroom - since I moved to Manchester, things haven't been so simple.

I went from having bags of free time to throwing myself into my work, from being able to pop over to Hope Valley for a fiver with the Yeti by my side to having to pay nearly double that and having no one to go with, and from having endless rolling fields on my front door to wander to... well, not:

«Pictured: Not Manchester

So having had a near-death experience on an ascent that I'd previously always found challenging but never a problem, kicked my butt into gear and finally gave me the push to join the local (ish) gym. 

Now I know that gym-fit isn't the same as hill-fit (or 'real-life-fit'), but my schedule these days is such that hills are few and far between (we still haven't managed another since I flomped on Lose Hill...), and although I live in one of the flattest cities in the UK, I'm (1) still rubbish at road running, and (2) terrified of where I live. So really, it's gym or bust.

So in the interests of living to 26 and comfortably surviving the next hill, I decided to make the most of my gym membership. Here's how I spend my sessions...

«Sadly, my gym's facilities don't include a great ridge...


Stationary Bike
I'm obsessed with stationary bikes. Even though they bore the hell out of me after a few weeks, they're amazing for low-impact sessions with awesome results. It was on one of these that I lost 3 stone back in 2012. One of the big reasons I get to the gym at 7am is to make sure I have access to one of the desperately few they have there...

What I do... It varies depending on whether I'm having a "running" day, but generally I'll use the bike as a warm up and a cool down (it's especially handy if I've arrived at the gym feeling particularly sluggish). I'll usually do about 25 minutes at the start of the session, and then anything from 45 to 60 as my cool down (depending on how much I'm wishing for death at that point).
I also usually catch up on Corrie during the warm up; because it's important to study and understand local culture.


Cross Trainer
I used to love these when I was an undergrad, and I'm still rather fond of them now. They're amazing for burning a buttload of calories without keeling over and give the sensation that you're running without having to actually do so! (...just me?)

What I do... I'm having to use this less and less these days as my new running shoes don't seem to get along with it (I'm hoping it's a matter of wearing them in, gah), but back in the good old days, I'd use it as a supplement to - or the main body of - my proper workout. As a supplement, it's brilliant for rounding up calories*, and as a main workout: it's not too harsh, but you can still feel your body benefiting. I'd usually do around an hour, but I'd try to get it up to ninety minutes if I was really enjoying myself.

*NB: I know that calories aren't the goal when training for fitness and that those counters aren't all that accurate anyway, but what can I say: I'm a numbers girl.


Treadmill
I have always hated running so I have always hated treadmills, but recently I'm developing a grudging respect for the machine (just as long as I don't have to use one of the ones by the window...)

What I do... I have two activities which are either done together, or the first on its own:
1. Incline Walking
2. "Running"

If I'm just doing incline walking, then I'll try to do it for 45-60 minutes, starting at 3.5kmph and aiming to be at between 4.5-5kmph by the 15 minute mark, though I tend to slow down to the lower end of that scale on a greater incline. Working with what my body's telling me it can handle gravity-wise, I systematically increase either the incline or the speed with each (or every other) passing minute until the time is up. Sometimes I'll use this as a secondary warm up before "running", which involves more dramatic increases, but only over 15-25 minutes.
So why the quotes on "Running"? Well I can't run to save my life. Seriously. I ran for a train once through Piccadilly and I thought I was going to die. But something made me download the NHS's Couch to 5k programme and I've been trying to bust my way into the sport since. Admittedly, I've not got past week 1 yet, but that's more to do with circumstance than my (desperate) lack of fitness: after my first go I managed to sustain such a magnificent injury that I could barely even walk, let alone run. Cue one week off. I made a triumphant return and completed week one when I got back to the gym - I even ran for a bus at one bit and felt fine! ...But then I had two weeks off for Sam's birthday and now I've forgotten what a treadmill looks like.

But at least I'm being converted on treadmills: I'm starting to like running, but as my default seems to be panic and bolt (which I can manage without vomiting for around 50 seconds), having something that makes me restrict my speed to something reasonable (usually 7.6kmph) is a Godsend.

I aim to do "Running" 3-4 times a week... but so far my average has worked out as one per week. Must do better.



So there you have it. Hopefully, if I spend enough of the next two months doing these things (and squeezing in the odd hill where possible), then I won't be defeated half a mile into my first steep-ish ascent in the Lakes this summer.

Which would be rather helpful considering we're aiming for an awful lot of hikes over 10 days in the fells...

«Un-achievable life goal: to out-hike the Yeti...

Does anyone else rely on the gym for staying hill-ready? 

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