3 Ways to Improve Your Time on the Grouse Grind
One of the best outdoor workouts that we get to enjoy here in Vancouver is "Mother Nature’s Stairmaster" - also known as the Grouse Grind.
Clients and friends ask me for tips on how they can improve their time on the Grind. While there are several variables and different skill levels to consider, these three points are topmost to maximize your results.
When hiking the Grind, you might notice that there’s a battle waging between feeling winded (your cardio capacity), or your legs feeling like lead (your strength endurance). These are the two most important issues to rectify.
1. Improve Your Cardio Capacity
If you are feeling winded or out of breath, your capacity needs to improve. Your ‘aerobic window’ needs to change – this is the range between your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate.
You want to have a lower resting heart rate, which means your heart is more efficient and effective. Then, you want to raise lactate threshold – which essentially is the highest level you can work at without going into oxygen debt. For example, think jogging versus sprinting: at some point you’re no longer jogging fast, you are in an all-out sprint.
Raising your lactate threshold will essentially will help your body’s ability to maintain prolonged, high intensity exercise. The difference between your lactate threshold and your resting heart rate is called your Aerobic window. The larger this area (measured in BPM ), the more capacity you have to do exercise without ‘hitting the wall’.
Bonus tip: When starting out on the trail, don’t run in the first quarter where it’s flat and very tempting to run. If you struggle with cardio in any way, after running this segment it will be difficult to get your heart rate down and control your breathing when you hit the more challenging areas of the Grind.
Ways To Improve Your Cardio Capacity
Running sets of stair repeats as fast as you can, or working on improving your steady pace while running.
For the Grouse Grind in particular, incline running or hill intervals are good. To do hill intervals, find a steep hill and run up a block or two then over a block or two so you can recover a bit. Interval training while running will also increase your aerobic ability: practice sprinting for 30 sec. and then running at a slower pace for 30 sec. throughout your run.
2. Increase Your Strength Endurance
If your legs are burning partway through the Grind, you know that you’ll need to work on your strength endurance.
You may feel strong to start, but you need to be able to exert that strength over an extended period of time. You need to switch to a workout that includes high reps with heavier weights and shortened rest periods.
The weights need to be heavy enough that it’s challenging, but not too difficult for you to produce several reps. Take a short break between reps – less than 60 sec. – and perform three sets. When you’re on the Grind, try not to stop. Even if you have to move really slowly to drink your water, this continual movement will increase your endurance in the long run.
Ways to Increase Your Strength Endurance
High rep step-ups (try 30/set), lunges with weights, or weighted stair climbs are all good ways to increase your strength endurance.
3. Decrease Your Body Weight
Yes, this is an obvious tip: the extra pounds that you carry uphill make a big difference in your ability to climb efficiently (visualize yourself carrying a five-pound kettle bell). If you lose some unwanted body fat, you’ll increase your pace!
Ways to Decrease Your Body Weight
Change what and how much you eat. If you are struggling in this area, come talk to one of our nutrition coaches for tips or a plan to follow.
Work on any of these three points and I guarantee you’ll see an improvement on your performance on the Grind.