I lost count of how many times I reached Millstone Road, glanced left, considered how I felt, and then kept walking straight. You see, Millstone Road included a mountain of a hill that regularly kicked my butt while walking. In fact, when my wife, Ava, and I walked together we had to stop talking to each other halfway up Millstone because we were too winded.
Oddly, I miss Millstone Mountain. Our new community in Myrtle Beach is flat. Those sidewalk ramps at each corner are really the only elevation we encounter while walking. Candidly, it makes walking easier, but also less of a fitness activity than I was used to.
I’ve gained a new appreciation for hills now that we don’t have them. How about you? How do you feel when you encounter a hill while walking? Do you embrace it or go in a different direction?
I hope you, at least occasionally, take the hill. Here are three things I miss now that Millstone Mountain isn’t an option.
The reason Ava and I had to stop talking halfway up Millstone is our hearts were beating faster. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing. Fitness needs to push us if we want to keep getting stronger.
Walking up hills is a great way to increase our fitness capacity. That’s one of the reasons most treadmills have an incline feature. During one of our walks up Millstone Mountain, I checked my heart rate on my Fitbit, and sure enough, it was beating faster.
Millstone was not the only hill in our neighborhood, but it was the steepest. It was also the first hill we encountered which made the rest of the hills feel easier. Not sure if that’s because it got our heart “ready” or the other hills just didn’t feel as intimidating after walking up Millstone Mountain.
By the way…anytime you are thinking about increasing the intensity of your workout you should check with your doctor. I’m not a doctor and what I write should never be taken as medical advice. I’m just a guy who walks a lot, can do some internet research, and then writes about my experiences.
The other day Ava lamented our lack of hills now because she’s losing some muscle tone. Walking, or running, those hills in Maryland worked a set of muscles that are not currently getting pushed.
Cardio is not the only aspect of fitness needed for health and wellness. If walking on level ground is the only activity I engage in, I’m missing a significant chunk of what I need to age well.
Walking up hills provides a measure of strength training for muscles in my legs and glutes that I don’t get walking on flat surfaces. I need to find other ways to work them now that I don’t have Millstone Mountain within walking distance from my front door. I suspect I may need to start doing the dreaded squats soon.
Weight management is important to me. It was a slowly creeping weight gain around my midsection that motivated me to pursue fitness in my late 40’s. I didn’t like the way I looked and my ego provided a boost of motivation to get moving.
There’s research indicating we burn as much as 60% more calories when we include hills in our walking. Without hills, I need to walk longer and faster to get the same impact I used to get tackling Millstone Mountain.
As I reflect back on those on my fitness start, I was able to drop that increased weight quicker than I expected. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I embraced Millstone Mountain in those early days.
Truthfully, there are also days when Ava and I are walking that it’s nice not to reach a point where we have to stop talking as we climb a big hill. But, I miss the health benefits of a hilly walk. To compensate, I’ve picked up my walking pace and walk longer now.
That seems to be working fine, but the occasional hill would be nice.
If you’re looking to begin walking for fitness and you’d like a walking buddy, try my podcast, “Walking is Fitness.” Every day I record the first ten-minutes of my walk and you’re invited to walk and listen. It’s a great way to jumpstart walking for fitness or simply provide a boost of motivation to get out on those days you don’t feel like it.
And, one of the nice things about listening to the podcast while you’re walking…if you embrace the hills at least one of us will still be able to keep talking.