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The Power of Hills

Taking your walks vertical is a quick way to boost the intensity

With temps in the upper 50s and the sun shining brightly, I couldn’t wait to get out for a nice long walk. I was going to take advantage of the good weather (forecast for the next few days doesn’t look so good) to do a kick-butt walking workout! The past few days my walks had been more moderate. While all walking is good for you, there are added benefits to alternating leisurely to brisk walks with more vigorous ones.

Your heart and lungs becomes more fit so everything you do feels easier. You burn more calories to boost weight loss if that’s your goal. And the added impact of a faster pace strengthens your bones more–just to name a few the added bennies! I try to do at least three higher intensity walks a week.

But before I could walk (I’m a night owl so I rarely get walks in before the family is up), I had a trip to the animal shelter with my daughter’s Daisy troop. Then, we had lunch with some of the troop members and their moms. All fun stuff that I love to do, but the nice weather was really making me crave a walk today. Finally, around 4:30 pm, after I dropped my daughter off at a play date, I had a window of opportunity. “See you in about an hour,” I yelled to my husband and 12-year-old son as I headed out the door.

I decided to kick it up by hitting some hills (easy to do in my neighborhood). A basic guideline is that for every 1% increase in grade, you burn 12% more calories per mile. If you’re walking outside, you can assess the grade by using MapMyWalk.

Off I went! My route is always downhill to start when I leave my house. The wind was brisker than I realized so I was going to get a tougher workout than I had expected with the wind resistance–no problem, I was looking to work up a sweat!
After about a 5-minute warm-up going downhill, I started a nice easy climb for about a block until I hit my first steeper hill.

1st hill
1st hill

It was only about a 1-2% grade according to MapMyWalk, but I noticed the difference! My legs were working harder, and I was breathing heavier. It wasn’t a long hill, but it was a good warm-up for what was to come.

Top of the first hill!
Top of the first hill!

The next hill was shorter but steeper.

2nd hill
2nd hill

The key to climbing hills is to keep your steps short and stand tall. Don’t lean into the hill otherwise you’ll end up with a backache.

The third hill was a longer, winding incline.

3rd hill
3rd hill

I had to keep switching sides of the road to make sure cars could see me. The general rule is to walk into traffic when you’re walking in the road so you can see cars as they are coming. But when you’re climbing a hill, about half way up you should switch sides otherwise you might surprise a car as it starts down the hill. You also need to switch sides when when there are curves in the road. The sooner a car can see you, the safer you’ll be. For hills and curves, walk on the side of the road in which you can see the most road. On straight-aways, walk into traffic.

At the top of this hill, I was planning to turn and hit one final hill before heading back home. I’m not sure if it was the gorgeous weather or the latte I drank before my walk, but I wanted more! I altered my route to include two more hills with the final one being the biggest hill in my area. I was really working up a sweat, my heart was pumping, and my glutes were feeling it as I ascended the 4th hill.

4th hill
4th hill

No that’s not garbage on the sides of the road–it’s snow!

I was still feeling pump when the road came out in the middle of Beverly Hills Road–the biggest hill. Instead of climbing the upper half of it only, I headed downhill to tackle the entire half-mile hill with grades up to 8% (that’s almost a 50% boost in calorie burn!) Here’s the view from the bottom.

final hill
final hill

Photos don’t do justice to hills.

The first half was a gradual climb, and then I hit the steep part. I just kept thinking about the awesome workout my lower body was getting–my calves as the pushed off with every step and my glutes as they pushed me up the hill. And with every beat and breath, I knew my heart and lungs were getting stronger–and the next time I’m running around playing soccer with my kids, I’ll be better able to keep up with them! That’s why I walk and why I was smiling when I reached the top!

At the top!
At the top!

My best walk of the season so far! About 4.75 miles in 1 hour 15 minutes, and according to my FitBit, I burned 468 calories!

And here’s view at the top…pretty nice for PA!

View from the top
View from the top

Happy Walking!

Michele

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