Its leg day! Dreaded for many, leg day is actually my favorite day. In fact, I rarely routine at this point except for a leg day. Maybe it’s because I’m comparatively so weak everywhere else. I’ve got tree trunks for legs, and the basal fortitude of an Ent – it only makes sense. This is a special leg day, however. This leg day is in preparation for the Manitou Incline! I am in reasonable driving distance of this famous Colorado attraction, so it may come as a surprise that I have never done it. It usually provokes a cringe or two when I recite this fact to local friends. But now, it is time. I no longer have any reason; I’m at least decently fit, and extremely close to my weight goal. The Incline had always been an intimidating prospect to me as someone who was morbidly obese for most of their life. But now that rigid scar in the mountainside is tempting me, taunting and calling out it’s contest. The challenge is nigh!
What is the Manitou Incline?
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Manitou Incline, simply known to most as the Incline, it is one of the most famous hikes in the Colorado Springs area. The incline is located just northwest of the popular (though small) town of Manitou. It rises on the mountainside, a proud and prominent feature. It is a beloved fitness challenge in this active state, and has undergone many overhauls since it’s original identity as a railway in conjunction with a hydroelectric plant on the mountain. I will go over the history and features of this trail in broader depth and detail in next week’s post, as I review how the hike itself went.
So let’s get into this week’s activity; Preparation. I’ve designed a workout to help prepare you and I to tackle the main objective, The Incline. In preparing for a main objective, you are not only setting yourself up for success, you are also making sure you get in necessary physical activity on a regular basis. So join me! Towards the end of the post I’ll discuss how to modify this workout if you cannot yet complete it as it is meant to be. We will talk about how to make progress towards completion, but I want to make it clear that you don’t need to beat yourself if something is (initially) too difficult. If you’re actively striving for progress, you’re fighting the good fight. Keep it up!
Overview of workout
We will begin with a stretch sequence to loosen up and become more mindful about the muscles we will be activating. After that, the action starts with the humble Calf Lift. This will be followed by, in order ; Leg Lifts, Step Ups, Plank, Squats, Toe Pull Backs, Bridge, and Jumping Jacks. The intent will be to repeat from Calf Lifts through Jumping jacks four times, and ending with the same(ish) stretch sequence from the beginning. Because The Incline is a heavy combination of lower body and cardio exercise, I recommend keeping a steady pace and utilizing body-weight resistance in favor of bar weight. Ready?
There is absolutely going to be some variation in this sequence per person. I’m going to list some stretches I highly recommend doing, but after that I want you to feel your own body out and stretch what you feel needs to be stretched, ok? Start with a simple calf stretch: Stand with the ball of your feet on an elevated surface, like a stair, and push your weight down into your heels. Alternate by shifting to majority of your weight from one side to the other. Step down with one foot and lean forward with a slightly bent knee, maintain a downward heel press, and you should feel a much deeper stretch – this is your Soleus muscle! Switch sides.
Sit on the ground , both legs straight out in front of you, and lean forward to grab the outsides of your feet. Next, maintain this position but point your toes up and hold them for a hamstring and calf stretch. After that, point your toes down and lean forward – try to push them down with your fingers if you can reach! Repeat these motions with one leg bent in, bottom of foot touching the inner thigh of the opposite leg. Switch sides.
Bring the bottoms of your feet together and lean forward, aiming to drop your forehead into the ‘bowl’ your arches create. Now, one side followed by the other, lean your forehead towards your still bent knee. This should have revealed some spots that are tighter than others. If you feel the need, continue to stretch these muscles out. Otherwise, it’s time to get going!
We are going to do Calf Lifts from three positions, 30 reps each. Start with your toes facing forward in your standard Calf Lift position. Second, point your toes in the exact opposite directions. Third, Point your toes towards each other.
Stand tall. These leg lifts are also going to be from three positions, one side at a time. Preform 25 lifts from each position, on each side. Forward first, lift your leg directly in front of you as high as you can. Second, to the side, again as high as you can. Third, back kick, as far back and as high as you can (remember to focus on engaging your glutes) and don’t forget, for each position, to maintain control as your leg returns to it’s starting position.
You will need a stair, box, or some type of elevated surface for this. Look for something between 12-18 inches off the floor , depending on your ability. Step up, focusing on engaging your glutes and maintaining a proper upright form. Step up 15 times per leg.
Plannnnnk. This is a great exercise, one of my favorites. On your forearms, shoulder width apart, heels back, no angle at your hips. Hold for one minute. If you can hold for more than that, please go for it. If you cannot, perform several planks until they equate one minute or more. You may also do an upright plank (push up position) or alternate between the two forms as you progress through the routine
Body-weight squats are so lovely. Widen that stance! We are looking for shoulder width as a minimum width, preferably wider. Maintain an activated, upright core. Lift your chin, you should not be looking down, or up, but straight ahead – as if you are gazing at a far horizon. Toes slightly out ( approximately 45 degrees) Always maintain a stable, static spine, with a slight arch in your lower back. Push your hips back, rotating with the ball of your femur inside of your hip socket, not with your spine. Push down to parallel, or lower if you can manage, and focus heavily on activating your glutes and hamstrings to push you back to upright. Never let your knees bend in. Focus on keeping them directly in line with your feet, if not very slightly pushed out. Repeat 25 times
Toe pull backs
This is just the opposite of a calf lift. With a straight leg, pull your toes upwards. Very simple. Repeat 25 times per leg. Do this standing with your performing leg kicked slightly forwards, balancing on your weight-bearing leg.
The Bridge is in the same family as the plank. Lay on your back, arms extended out to your sides, palms facing up. Shimmy your feet back, heels as close to your butt as you can and lift with your glutes. Push up past parallel, lifting your chest up, arms turning slightly and shoulders relaxing to open this up. Maintain this position as long as you possibly can, with heels and toes facing forward, not out (something I still am working on) Breathe through this and relax up into it. We are aiming for one minute, or more.
We all know jumping jacks, right? 50 jumping jacks to pump the heart rate back up before heading back to the beginning with calf lifts.
Repeat for a total of four rounds! Take water and intermediate stretch breaks as needed! You’re going to feel this tomorrow…
Repeat your stretch sequence, and add what you feel you need! You’re probably going to want to stretch your calves periodically throughout the day, as a forewarning.
Feel free to modify this to your fitness level and needs. If you can only do one round? Great! Two? Even better. If you need to cut the listed reps by percentages, do so. Gradually build up your fitness level, you can’t be expected to out-perform your physical limitations. But always press your mind further.
Well, how did it go? Let me know in the comments below! This workout isn’t super simple, but neither is the Incline. I can’t really prepare for the elevation gain, but I feel pretty confident in myself.
My favorite parts of this workout are the Calf Lifts and Bridge, what about you? The third round is where I start to get a little resentful, but that’s ok because I know there is only one more to go – was there a part that kicked your ass?
Charlie and Morgan think working out inside is silly
Have you done the Incline?
Have you ever done prep work for it? What is your best time, or best story from your experience there? I’d love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments, or on any of the following social media platforms! I’ll see you next week with a write-up on how it went!
Now, for the disclaimer – I am not an adventure guide, personal trainer, doctor, nutritionist, or medical authority, this is meant to be only a source of information and inspiration, implementing these techniques into your daily life is something you do of your own free will and at your own risk.
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