JB_Alps_03

Ups and Downs

Gravity: a constant and largely inescapable companion. It will often tap you on the shoulder to remind you who is really in charge of the situation. A gentle reminder that when anything needs to be lifted, some level of commitment and work is required by you (if you refrain from mechanical assistance).

As such, when treated with respect and understanding, gravity proves to be an excellent and authentic training buddy. By utilising its benefits to make your training tougher, the theory is that any exploits which then demand a reduced requirement to defy gravity should appear to be relatively ‘easy’ in comparison.

In addition to my British Military Fitness sessions, putting this idea in to practice has meant a period of focused up and downhill trail running to develop robust muscular resilience. This resilience not only makes me stronger and tougher but also means more energy can be directed towards other attributes such as style, form, efficiency and ultimately, speed.

The recipe for a gravity-based workout can be quite modest;

1. Simply get outside in suitable attire
2. Find something to lift.

Preferably lift your own body – it is not easily left behind and will be the primary benefactor of any meaningful exercise achieved. Take yourself out for a run where you include steps, slopes or even step-ups on a bench if nature fails you.

If you’re after something more static, most exercises fundamentally work against gravity – press ups, leg raises etc will all feel harder on the ‘up’ than the ‘down’. However,  you can increase the intensity of your workout by adding weights, or changing the pace of movement.

Despite mainly being a runner, I have suffered from several injuries as a result of a one-dimensional training approach; focusing predominantly on running. So, as an elite athlete striving to become as resilient as possible to the demands of a full-time training schedule I have concluded that a foundation of strength and basic principles of fitness will ensure a sustainable pathway to my goals.

Since embarking on this quite-literally ‘steep learning curve‘ and training regime, the development of deep lungs, bodily efficiency and skeleto-muscular adaptation made it possible to consider an uphill challenge to see what my body could actually manage!

My choice of challenge was the Zermatt Marathon – measuring in at 42km (26.2 miles) is no surprise, but what comes as a shock, especially once you start, is the 1900m of ascent to the finish. Producing a near-unbroken climb over the marathon distance mostly on tracks and trails.

Whilst running uphill is a demand on muscular and cardio-vascular systems, running downhill is something completely different – an art form and discipline in its own right. The stresses on the muscles are practically reversed and where progressing uphill is a mind game of focus and pain reduction, downhill requires positive technique and the mental alertness equivalent to the functions performed at NASA’s mission control room.

Trajectories and life preservation systems are constantly assessed for a precise and graceful descent. The alternative in running terms is a jumbled heap of sweat and most likely some tears…all because of a worldwide force, applied without prejudice, to bring us all back down to earth both mentally and physically, often with a bump and to show who really is the boss!

Gravity available everywhere, please use with care.