5 Tips for Grouse Grind First Timers

Photo Credit: Grouse Mountain

Photo Credit: Grouse Mountain

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.

Photo Caption: Grouse Mountain

Photo Caption: Grouse Mountain

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.

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14 Responses to 5 Tips for Grouse Grind First Timers

  1. linda

    It’s not that bad. It’s one of those things you have to solder through. I did it for the first time at 57 & I was fine. Just do it. You’ll be fine.

    • Mark

      Anyone know how many calories are burnt doing the grind? Of course it depends on various factors including age and exertion but can anyone point to an average?

      • a_grinder

        I’m 46, average fitness level for my age. my pace is around 70min and my HR monitor tells me I burn about 1700K

        • chris

          Calories burned has less to do with age and fitness level but more to do with simple physics of Force X Distance (your weight, including gear, hoisted to the top and along the path). However, the human body is very inefficient so you burn several times more than a mechanical device doing the same thing. Since the laws of physics don’t change from individual to individual, there is little difference in the calories burned from one person to another.

          You will also notice that there is not a time factor; this is because whether you go fast or slow you still burn the same number of calories–it just takes longer when you go more slowly. However, many of the body’s base calories go into regulating temperature, so you will actually burn more calories on a cold day and those will be proportional to how long you take–the longer you take the more you burn.

          So what is the bottom line? Well hard to say exactly, but a good rule of thumb is about 700 calories per 100 pounds of mass–and don’t forget to include your gear because you are hoisting that as well. Consequently, to burn 1700 calories, your total package must weigh in at about 250 pounds.

          So if you weigh 140 pounds and allow 10 lbs for shoes, clothes, maybe small day pack, and a bottle of Gatorade… you might burn 1000 calories. Yup, you gotta do a lot of Grinding to burn off that one piece of cheesecake you had for desert yesterday!

          Food calories are concentrated and there’s 3500 of them in a pound of fat.

      • ralph

        A 200 pound person needs to develop around 200 watts of muscular power for a hour to climb the grind. Given muscle efficiency that would be close to a 1000 calories burned.

  2. I’m coming to Vancouver soon and want to try it, although am a little worried.

  3. me

    All you need is a positive attitude, a good pair of shoes and water to stay hydrated. Don’t worry about how long it takes you – just focus on completing it. I did it for the first time this summer and it took me 2 hours. Can’t wait to go back.

  4. Brigitte Chastkavich

    When my granddaughter was 41/2 she wanted to do the grind. It took us nearly 2 hours. She has since conquered it 10 times and a couple of weeks ago at the age of 61/2 she completed it in 1hr 16min. Not only that, she hiked it twice in one day this summer as well. It’s not an easy hike, but if she can do it…….

    • Seo

      It took me 2 hours my first time a few years back, but my last time was about 1hr 35mins. It’s not a good feeling knowing a 6 year old is faster up the grind than me :( lol.

  5. Marcos

    I’m 35, i did it today by myself, i totally agree with ‘Me’, about attitude, good pair of shoes and water, after you will be rewarded for his own achievement. Amazing!!

  6. To bad that I was not there last time because it is an excellent article!

  7. Janine

    out of Australia now, but coming home next august and want to be ready to conquer it again. However, have had back surgery since I did it last and have limited leg use. I believe that with the right training over time I get ready to conquer the grind once more….

    ANY advice

  8. JK

    Grind was awesome…but if you have any health issues not recommended….as it is like no other climb…

    you will need plenty of water…after you hit the half way mark
    it becomes a little easier…. not..the trees are marked by numbers 1 to40………1 being start and 40 finish

    Should do it in a team if possible and help each other out..makes it easier…….start early in the morning so it won’t get dark if you start late and finish late….it gets too dark in the woods…

  9. db

    For several years my Vancouver friend talked about ‘The Grind’ & I imagined a paved trail – fairly steep (I don’t listen so well sometimes). Reality is much more interesting. Possibly the coolest part is the encouragement from the community of hikers & runners (Vancouver is kinda’ like that). Each person has a different reason & pace and everyone celebrates.

    In the shade of the trees the entire way means any time of day is tolerable. We did it as a mid-morning workout in 52 minutes, too fast to be able to enjoy the scenery.

    Things I will do differently next time:
    – Will NOT have a bottle of wine & 3 beers the night before (I’m kind of an idiot sometimes).
    -Will have a power bar that morning besides breakfast.
    -Will do a 15 minute warm-up, limber-up in the parking lot (in stead of hitting the trail cold) to get my heart going so I don’t have to gasp on the trail.

    I am looking at prep workouts so we can complete it in her personal goal of :40 in 2016.

    male, age 61