The Grouse Grind – these three words evoke two opposite reactions in my experience. As in, “hey, do you want to do the Grouse Grind next weekend?” There’s usually a ‘No’ camp and a ‘Yes’ camp associated with this question.
The first subset of Vancouverites react to the above question with a mix of fear, backpedalling, anxiety, or faked busy-ness. As in, “Sorry, no can do. I have to do house work all day and then go to a yoga class on Saturday. And Sunday is busy too.”
Then there are the Vancouverites who react to the above query with eagerness, courage and a sense of outdoor prowess. As in, “Sure, I’d love to, what time?”
I belong in subset one. Confession time: after living in Vancouver for almost a decade I haven’t done the Grouse Grind. My goal this summer season is to end the procrastination and hike up the Grouse Grind sometime in September.
The Grouse Grind is ‘nature’s stairmaster’. About 100,000 people a year do the 2.9 kilometre, 853 metre vertical gain hike. According to Grouse Mountain’s website, the average person can complete the climb in 1.5 to two hours.
My friend Sarah goes up the Grouse Grind once or twice a week in 42-48 minutes depending on the day. Sarah also belongs firmly in the ‘Yes’ camp. She road-bikes, runs the seawall regularly and attends spin class.
Reading between the lines, your ‘grind time’ depends on your level of fitness. The key to preparing for the grind is to stay positive, take your time, wear proper shoes and bring water I’m told by friends. What’s the pay off for climbing 2,830 steps? The killer view and a long glug of beer from Altitudes Bistro before riding the gondola back down.
To defray my ‘first-timer’ nerves, I turned to fellow blogger and certified personal trainer Catherine Roscoe Barr for pre-Grind fitness tips. Author of The Life Delicious, a lifestyle bulletin for body, mind and soul, Roscoe-Barr stresses a balanced approach to preparing for steep hikes like the Grouse Grind.
“Like Henry Ford said, if you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right,” she says. I’ll be preparing for my first Grind experience by following Roscoe Barr’s advice below.
1. Strength: Performing multi-muscle lower body exercises – like squats, lunges and deadlifts – is an efficient way to develop strength to power up the Grind. Aim for two to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions, two to three times per week on non-consecutive days.
2. Cardio: Interval training is a quick and effective route to increase your cardiovascular fitness. Try this 20 minute treadmill workout: five minute warm up at a low-to-medium pace, 10 minutes alternating between one minute of medium-to-high exertion (you’re breathing hard but able to talk) and 1 minute of maximum effort, and a 5-minute cool down at slower pace.
3. Flexibility: The body moves with more ease and precision when muscles are at their optimal length during rest. Desk workers should focus on stretching the muscles that are most often shortened by sitting: chest, hip flexors and hamstrings.
4. Balance and Stability: Making your way over steep and uneven terrain requires balance and stability. To develop balance, try single-leg activities (alternating sides) like single-leg hops or single-leg squats. For stability, work on core strength by challenging yourself on wobble boards or performing exercises that work the transverse abdominis.
5. Mindset: You’re inner and outer dialogue have a huge impact on your success. So stay positive, embrace the discomfort, and breathe!
Do you have any tips for doing the Grouse Grind? Any traditions you would like to share? Tell us in the comments section below.