Many of you will be aware of Hill Fit by Chris Highcock through reviews on Alan Sloman’s blog and Martin Rye’s blog. Chris very kindly sent me a copy to review as well. I think many like me struggle to maintain a good level of hill fitness. I’m lucky in one sense as I think I have a reasonable amount of core fitness that I’ve retained from my youth. Must have been all that football and cricket I played! I’m also lucky in that I’ve stayed reasonably thin, presumably because I have a high metabolism. Nevertheless, there are times when I do struggle a bit out in the hills. It’s not just a question of fitness or stamina, but strength. This is especially true when climbing hills.
This is where Hill Fit comes in. It’s not really a fitness book per se, it’s about a simple method for building core body strength. It is this approach that makes it different from other fitness books I’ve read and failed to put into practise. If you have a decent level of base fitness, which is true for many walkers, then walking 17-18 miles in a day is not usually a problem if it doesn’t involve much uphill. For instance the first day on our Peddars Way walk last year was over 17 miles and I felt pretty good. However, there are days in the Lake District where I’ve felt more tired after 7-8 miles, when I’ve had a lot of uphill.
Chris’s book gives enough background on fitness and strength to help you understand what is going on, without overwhelming you. There’s plenty of references at the back if you want to delve deeper into the whys and wherefores. I found the explanation just enough to answer my questions. Chris makes the point that his strength routine does not take the place of walking, but compliments it. Walking is still the best training for walking!
The strength routine consists of four basic exercises which should be done once or twice a week. Each exercise has a series of progressions to improve strength but shouldn’t take more than about ten minutes in all. Two of the exercises I’ve come across before. One is an exercise that I used to do before going skiing to strengthen my thighs and hips. The other is one that I’ve used to help my back. No gym equipment is required. One exercise requires a towel, but all the rest can be done without aids.
Does it work? I can’t give you an answer at the moment, but they are now part of my training for the TGO Challenge along with some walking. I’m hoping that it will stand me in good stead and that my strength for hill climbing will be improved. Having tried an exercise bike and gym membership, I feel this simple regime is likely to be more physiologically and cost-effective for backpacking.
If you are interested, go to Chris’s website hillfit.com and you can see the contents along with some comments from people more qualified than me! The book is downloadable as an eBook and costs £9.95. Well worth considering if you are looking for a simple way to get fit for the hills.
Disclaimer: Hill Fit was supplied to me free of charge to review.