Oh BOY. Got back from my daily climb an hour or so ago, and I'm still buzzed! Feeling like a billion bucks, which I normally do after a tough climb anyway, but the effects have literally been amplified today.
Why? Well, let's just say due to one SIMPLE tweak in my routine, but first, let's discuss the concept of a "natural" high (different from the buzz you get from putting artificial junk such as candy, tobacco etc into your body).
Those that exercise regularly will be familiar with this term - in fact, even those of you that aren't fitness maniacs will have heard of the term "runner's high". This basically refers to the "floating on cloud nine" feeling you get after a long, hard run wherein you literally sweat all the toxins out of your body - and it can be applied to any form of exercise - bodyweight routines, weight lifting, swimming - and - YES - climbing as well!
I tend to refer to my workout high's (when climbing the hill) as a "climber's high", and find this "buzz" to be literally intoxicating and better than any I've ever gotten from other forms of exercise, bar none. I mean think about this - I'm still floating on cloud "twelve", if I might say - and it's already been an hour since I got home (and almost two hours since I reached the peak of the hill).
So, what is so special about climbing that really gets the heart rate up, the muscles working, the blood pounding and the sweat pouring? More importantly, what does climbing a steep hill provide that other exercises simply cannot?
Well, there are many ways to answer this one - and the simplest way would be to say "Hey, do it yourself and you'll find out". End of story.
But, for those of you that don't have a hill nearby (or for those of you that prefer to drive up a hill rather than put your butt in fourth gear), here is my explanation.
First, climbing hills is a fantastic overall body exercise, but it REALLY works the thighs and hips into the ground (especially when one is climbing stairs as opposed to a sloping path). I've said this before, and I'll say it again - work the hips and thighs, and you literally work the entire body. That is where your body's core strength resides, and that is literally the most important part of your body to work out. See Fast and Furious Fitness for more on this.
Second, climbing hills literally FORCES you to breathe deeply, even if you don't want to or don't know "how" to - you simply have no choice BUT to breathe deeply if you want to get up that hill. And whats even better is that working the thighs heavily (the largest muscle group in your body) NATURALLY makes you want to breathe deeply; and this effect is only amplified once you go up a steep incline or a hill.
Third, that deep breathing is really the key to the "high" I'm referring to - it literally purges your body of all toxins, and gives you a clear head in no time at all (especially in cooler weather). And that's not the only benefit - this deep breathing works the upper body big time as well. More on this later.
So, those are a few reasons - but what did I do to amplify this effect to the extent I'm referring to today?
Well, simple - I focused on my breathing.
That's right - that's all I did. I normally try and focus on my breathing anyway when exercising, but I made an extra attempt today, and the results have been nothing short of spectacular.
I made sure to breathe in and out through the nose in a controlled manner even when I was out of breath - instead of "puffing" up the hill like a locomotive would. Sure, there are times this can be hard to do - it's very hard to remember to breathe right when even getting air into your lungs seems like a Herculean task, but the benefits are well worth it.
I also made sure to breathe in from my abdomen, letting my abdomen expand and collapse on each inhale/exhale - which is how we should be breathing in our daily lives anyway. I've written about this before - watch an infant breathe, and you'll see how we were MEANT to breathe as opposed to the "shallow" breathing most adults practice.
This deep breathing, combined with my usual habit of taking the steps two at a time literally worked like a charm - and like I said, I'm still feeling the "buzz" long after I've finished my routine. And this feeling lasts the entire day - can one say the same about a runner's high? Or a caffeine high? Or a tobacco fix?
Not really - at least not in my opinion - and that is what makes the climber's high so special to me!
Anyway, that's the news for today. If you have a steep hill or two nearby, make sure to climb that sucker as part of your workout - and make sure you focus on your breathing while doing so - the results will literally astound you.
Back again soon!
P.S. : - No hill nearby? No problemo, amigo - I have several routines for ya in Fast and Furious Fitness that'll get the blood pumping just as well: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/articles/83-fast-and-furious-fitness-the-book