Hill Training – Ancient and State-of-the-Art

Cemetery Hill is not the official name of the few acres of land on the western edge of Messiah College. But that’s cemetery hillwhat “they” call the place with the cemetery at the top. College students and local kids gather there to sled ride in the winter.

While walking the dog on Cemetery Hill a few weeks ago, I stopped at an elevation that was equal to the Falcon Fitness Center, nearly half a mile away as the crow flies. I could look directly into the massive second story windows. The lit rows of stationary bikes, treadmills and elliptical trainers, stood out in the dusk.

As usual, I was alone out in the chilly air. There were roughly twenty people in the bright, climate controlled fitness center.  I could not see everything inside from my vantage point, but on-line I’ve read that it offers a wide variety of cardiovascular, free weight, and resistance training machines, many of which can synch with your phone or watch or retina ( ; )) to record and track your data. There are weight plates that change resistance based off pneumatic pressure. So you don’t have to lift them in order to…lift them.

While I’ve never visited insisde The Falcon, I’ve done a fair amount of work on Cemetery Hill. This has plenty of options as well.

cemetery hill inside
Inside the fitness center, trees in the backdrop through the windows.

For a low-intensity recovery day, you walk the dog up and around the hill. For moderate cardio you walk up and jog the across. For power and agility, you perform various hops, jumps, and bounds up the hill, and walk it back down. For strength, you carry dumbbells, barbells, or do various lunges up and down. For high intensity speed work, you sprint a portion of the hill and stagger or scoot straight down to where you began. As a bonus, all but one of these training options hits the lungs and the “core.”

Now, which of these training facilities are beneficial? Both, of course. Which is better? I’m really not sure, but I imagine it’s the one you will consistently do. I suspect that a sprint up cemetery hill is better for your physical health and performance than intervals on an elliptical. Breathing in fresh, uncomfortably cold (or hot and humid) air surely provides the full dose of working out.

I suspect that Cemetery Hill is good for health and performance in the same way that eating from a cast-iron skillet is good for you, or like having a salad is better than taking a multivitamin. It’s better than a big gym like having a pet is better for the immune system than a sanitized spotless home, and in the same way that breastfeeding infants is usually preferable over formula feeding.

Cemetery Hill is a non-flashy thing of beauty. It’s serene and uncomfortable, simple and effective. Collegiate and local athletes and fitness enthusiasts should be lining up for the chance to experience it’s proprietary All Seasons Environment. But don’t count on Cemetery Hill being featured on the college’s recreation and fitness web page. There will be nobody at the base of the hill to keep hours, check you in and swipe your ID. You will likely be alone, unless you manage to bring a band of brothers and sisters who understand the value in them thar hills.

Many will continue to complain about the costs of higher education and their student loans, but that’s another matter.

Fitness facilities, training fads and generations of college students and community residents will come and go. I hope that Cemetery Hill will always be open available to challenge (and sometimes pummel) those who confront it.

cemetery hill

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