The idea of climbing a mountain is a powerful metaphor; it represents willpower, and the ability to overcome whatever obstacles are thrown in your path. When I hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania at age 55, it wasn’t just a major physical challenge – it was a profound emotional and spiritual experience. And, on a much smaller scale, hiking is terrific for the same reasons. In just an hour or two, you can escape into the fresh air, set your imagination free and breathe through whatever issues are on your mind. And climbing isn’t just good for clearing the mind. It also does wonders on your glutes, legs and fat-burning abilities. Here’s how to get the most of your vertical workouts:

Approach cardio from a different angle.

If weather or geography is preventing you from getting outside for a hike, don’t worry. You can reap some amazing benefits from the comfort of your treadmill. We all know that you can burn more calories by increasing speed.

But you can also transform your treadmill workout into a more effective one by simply increasing the incline. Try my Treadmill Triple Header:

  • Walk at a moderate pace on a 0% incline for 2 minutes.
  • Maintaining the same pace, increase your incline to 3% for 2 minutes, 6% for 2 minutes, 9% for 2 minutes, 12% for 2 minutes, and 15% for 2 minutes.
  • Return to the 0% incline, and repeat that cycle 2 more times.
  • The proof’s in the numbers: If a 130-pound woman walks at a 12-minute-mile pace for 30 minutes with no incline, she burns 216 calories. But she can burn 178 more calories – at the same pace – by adding a 15% incline!

Climb, don’t walk.

The key to burning fat around the clock is finding opportunities to add movement throughout your day. If you’ve already worked out for 30 minutes today, that’s terrific – but don’t use it as an excuse to head straight for the elevator.

Here’s where the old “take the stairs instead of the elevator” idea comes into play. It’s a classic tip for obvious reasons: The key to burning fat around the clock is finding opportunities to add movement throughout your day. If you’ve already worked out for 30 minutes today, that’s terrific – but don’t use it as an excuse to head straight for the elevator. The trick is to make it interesting: Every time you take the stairs, take a different approach. One trip it’s all about speed, taking quick, light steps and getting to the top as fast as possible. The next trip, focus on slow, steady and skipping a step (if possible). Take a slow, deliberate step with your right foot, pressing your weight down into your heel and not your toe, keeping your core tight, and slowly bringing your left foot up in front of you, making sure you feel your glutes engaged throughout the movement. And the next time you take the stairs, step up and to the side, rather that just in one line, so that you engage your abductors (outer thighs) as you initiate the stepping motion, and then you hit the adductors (inner thighs) as you step up.

Get your climb on with the classics.

​If you think step workouts are a thing of the past, think again. There are fitness fads that comes and go, but this one’s here to stay. And for good reason: A 130-pound woman can burn over 260 calories in 30 minutes during a moderate step workout. I still love to do step workouts regularly – because in all my years of running, climbing, weight lifting, pilates, TRX, Crossfit, cycling and more, NOTHING sculpts and tones the glutes and thighs quite like stepping. It targets the lower body from every possible angle – and you just can’t beat that feeling when that music kicks in and you start to recall that classic choreography. Try my new Step Off The Pounds Kit – including three complete fat-blasting workouts, a freestyle step and FREE shipping – and get to stepping! Because even if you’re ramping up your workouts with an incline, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have a blast while you’re doing it.

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