Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Fastest Way Up Hills: Zig Zag

A friend sent me this article on zig zagging hills, which is great. This is in my opinion the best way to get up a hill and even down a hill if you are trying to save your legs!

I would also like to say a big WAY TO GO TO our good friend and dreamchaser Mike Wardian.
Mike ran the 50k Championships this past weekend at Camuset State Park in a time of 2:55:05.
This was good enough for not only 1st place but also broke the course record that was 2:55:54 set in 1981 by Richard Holloway. Mike is running Western States this summer and it is going to be so fun to follow him! YEAH MIKE!

Zig Zag!

A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but on a steep slope, zigzagging is the fastest way to go, a new study confirms.On flat terrain, a straight line is typically still the best way to get from point A to point B.
But climbing up a steep hill is a whole different ballgame; the mechanics and energy costs of walking up a hill alter the way we negotiate the landscape.

"You would expect a similar process on any landscape, but when you have changes in elevation it makes things more complicated," said study author Marcos Llobera of the University of Washington.

"There is a point, or critical slope, where it becomes metabolically too costly to go straight ahead, so people move at an angle, cutting into the slope. Eventually they need to go back toward the direction they were originally headed and this creates zigzags.

The steeper the slope, the more important it is that you tackle it at the right angle."Llobera and co-author T.J. Sluckin of the University of Southampton in the U.K. developed a simple mathematical model showing that a zigzagging course is in fact the most efficient way to go up or down a steep slope.Most people don't need a model to tell them that though, they do it without even thinking."I think zigzagging is something people do intuitively," Llobera said. "People recognize that zigzagging, or switchbacks, help but they don’t realize why they came about."


Meredith said...

I was running the 50K championship race as well as Mike and he is FAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSTTTTTT!!! This man is a speed demon. He passed me every lap, running two for my every one. I was lucky enough to be coming in for a loop to see him finish. I look forward to seeing him at WS too.

M DeMarco said...

Is this "Coach Mike" of the Death Valley camp fame? That is damn impressive.

Dane said...

Holy mackeral on Mike's time! I am missing seeing him pass by me at Mach 7 on the trails in DC.

Lisa, Could you shoot me his email address if you have it? Or give him mine?

Anonymous said...

Hey Lisa,
The article mentions this:
"And, they report, a third walk-run gait is optimal for intermediate speeds, even though humans do not appear to take advantage of it." I'd like to know more about that - it seems about right for those stretches of trail that seem uphill but when you walk you think you should be running, until you run and then you think you should be walking... You know what I'm talking about.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

I like to create my own switchbacks on steep trails, even going downhill. It helps even things out :)

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

thanks for the comments!!!

by the way doing zig zag on the bike, snowshoes, skate ski all helps save your legs as well.

keep your thoughts coming.

happy feet