It was one year ago last week when I cleared a hill sprinting path in the woods behind my home. I’ve always been a fan of hill sprints and was thrilled at the idea of having a hill to run within walking distance of my backdoor. Therefore, I eagerly took to the woods with an axe and saw and slowly began clearing out my future hill. At the time, I took a few before and after pictures and wrote an entry to the blog (see here).
One year later and I still run the hill regularly. I have likely sprinted more hills in the past year than I have at any other time in my life. And while that may not sound significant, hill sprints have been a favorite conditioner of mine throughout my 20+ years of training. In other words, I have been around the block and run my share of hills.
Yet after all these years, hill sprints are still kicking my ass. No matter how hard I run, the hill is always ready for more. It does not matter how well conditioned I am, hill sprints always remind me that I am human. It is only a matter of time before the hill takes over and wins. Hill sprints are truly an undefeated conditioning exercise that will never expire. I will never reach a point where I am too good for the hills. I may technically own the hill, but when I run it, the hill owns me.
Unfortunately, despite the obvious benefits, hill sprints still don’t get much love in the fitness industry. The lack of attention should not come as a surprise however. Why would an equipment manufacturer advertise the benefits of hills? It wouldn’t make financial sense unless that manufacturer doubled as a real estate agent. The same could be said of a gym owner. The gym owner wants you to run on his treadmills. There is nothing in it for him to have you out scouring the neighborhood for a steep hill to run.
Consequently, it is no surprise that I have never seen a traffic jam of runners on a steep hill. And while my wooded hill is a bit secluded, I have run various hills throughout my town There is even a picture of me running a local hill that was tweeted by Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy). He has millions of followers who saw the picture (see here). It was taken in 2005 and it has been shared countless times since. I have also publicly listed the address many times (Orchard St. Rockville, CT). Yet despite all the views and mentions, I have never once seen anyone else running that hill. When I am there, I am always alone.
Although some readers may grow tired of me proclaiming the benefits of hills, I must not be doing a very good job if all of the hills in my own town remain desolate. How can so many people overlook such an effective and free to use exercise location? If the average person did nothing but run a few hills and mix in some calisthenics afterward, they would be in better shape than 90+ percent of the world.
Sadly, simple but effective solutions must not be flashy enough to attract the masses. People either do not know about hills or are not willing to put in the work. Perhaps it is a combination of both. Regardless of what leads to the avoidance, it baffles my mind that more people do not take advantage of what is perhaps the best conditioning exercise of all.
In summary, rather than searching high and low for the next best exercise, consider investing that time and energy into an exercise that has already stood the test of time. Legendary athletes such as Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, and countless others ran hills for one simple reason. Hill sprints work, as long as you are willing to work. You can either follow in the footsteps of these past legends or waste your time looking for an easier yet less effective alternative.
It seems like a simple decision to make. Unfortunately, the desolate hills seem to suggest otherwise. Hopefully that will eventually change. I will certainly do my part to hype the benefits of hills for as long as I’m alive. And if you are ever in the area and want to hit up Orchard Street, shoot me a message. Perhaps we can run together.
It’s okay to lose, to die, but don’t die without trying, without giving it your best. – Walter Payton14 comments
Following one of my recent videos, I was asked whether a wood dolly could be used for some of the same exercises. At the time, I had not used a dolly before so I was not in a position to comment. I recently purchased the dolly below for just $10 however so I figured it was worth a try.
Here is a quick demonstration:
The dolly has a unique feel when compared to some of the tools that I have demonstrated before:
One disadvantage of the dolly is that you will need a hard surface such as pavement. It does not work as well on a matted or carpeted floor. Ultimately, one tool is not necessarily better or worse than another. It’s always useful to have multiple options available.
As is often the case, the world becomes a large gym once you open your mind and allow yourself to be creative.
The world is but a canvas to the imagination. — Henry David Thoreau2 comments
Throughout this blog’s history, I have made a conscious effort to highlight the significance of creativity. When you see the world through a creative lens, it is much easier to turn ordinary items into effective exercise tools. Simply writing about creativity is not enough however, hence my reason for regularly demonstrating this approach. Whether I am lifting stones in the woods, performing rollouts with an office chair, or training with furniture sliders, I strive to highlight the potential that exists within many otherwise mundane items.
Fortunately, I am not alone in my efforts to share this type of training. In just the past week, I have had two readers pass along videos of them performing standing rollouts with skateboards.
Take a look at these creative and challenging variations.
I enjoyed these brief displays for a few reasons. First, what is the chance that two individuals from different parts of the world would share skateboard exercises in the same week? More importantly though, it is great to see rollout variations that I have not performed before. I say this as someone who has likely performed as many rollout reps and variations as anyone in the world. Rollouts have been a favorite exercise of mine for many years now. Yet after all the reps and variations (see here), there are still new and creative ideas out there for me to try.
Ultimately, no matter how hard and long you have trained, there will always be new or different approaches that are worthy of your time. One of the fastest ways to identify an ignorant trainer is when you find one who believes he knows everything and is beyond learning. In other words, as soon as you believe you know it all, you have shown the world that you don’t.
Don’t make this elementary mistake. Instead, always remain creative and open to new ideas. Regardless of your knowledge and ability, no one will ever know everything. We should all strive to continue learning and improving. And one of the best ways to learn is by experimenting with new ideas and variations. Don’t limit yourself to what you have always done. Think outside the box and continually seek out new and different ways to challenge yourself and improve.
With that said, it looks like I will be purchasing my first skateboard…
In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn. – Phil Collins3 comments
As many of you know, I have been offline for much of the past month. I have been incredibly busy both in the gym and finishing off a new book. Fortunately, I am back in action so will resume with my regular blogging schedule.
To begin, I would like to share the following link.
What you will find within are many of the old titles that were previously available on the Sandow Plus website. If you are familiar with my site, there is a good chance that you are familiar with Sandow Plus. I have referenced the site many times as I am a big believer in learning from the strength legends who came before us.
Sadly, the original Sandow Plus site closed earlier this year after one of the webmasters passed away. Fortunately, David Gentle has been kind enough to upload much of the material to his site. If you were a fan of Sandow Plus, I highly recommend taking a look at his site. Many of the old titles have been added and it appears that there are plans to continue updating the site with more free material.
You can also use the following link (at least for now) to view the original Sandow Plus site.
As I have said many times before, strength is not new. It is always useful to learn from the legendary strength athletes who thrived in previous generations. These athletes performed incredible feats long before the existence of supplements and performance enhancing drugs. Unlike many of the con artists who exist today, the old time strength athletes walked the walk and performed feats that would be admired in any era. If you want to learn about real strength, it is always useful to learn from people who actually possessed it.
Just keep going. Everybody gets better if they keep at it. – Ted Williams7 comments