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Ramping Is a New Path to Fitness

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For most of us, a ramp is an inclined board to drive toy trucks up and down, or an easier way for people in wheelchairs to get from one level to another.

For Gin Miller, it's an innovative exercise device.

This should come as no surprise. Miller is credited with seeing a step as something other than part of a staircase; she pioneered step-training techniques now used worldwide.

So about a year ago, while helping build a bleacher for part of an upcoming exercise video, she was inspired by a board leaning against a building.

"I created the concept of incline workouts when we created Step Training," she says from her home in Atlanta. "We never really got around to marketing the incline because we got so busy with Step Training."

When she saw that board, though, she thought, "We need to revive the idea of this movement." So she, her partner and her team got together and came up with the product.

And voila. The Ramping program was born.

Miller first realized the need for The Ramp when she'd hear people complaining about a pulled hamstring.

"I knew two things: Their back muscles were tight, and they were weak," she says. "If you have big, giant quadriceps and weak, tight hamstrings, eventually some joint will pay the price or you'll get injured."

The Ramp device, color-coded and shaped like a half-moon, curves slightly off the ground and targets the backs of your muscles: hips, glutes, hamstrings.

"Everything else we do is forward-moving, locomotion," says Miller, a former gymnast who parlayed her coaching talents into an enterprise that includes a fitness center, dozens of videos and regular contributions to such magazines as Cooking Light, Family Circle and Good Housekeeping.

"Ramping uses catching and slowing down of body muscles ... hips, butt, hamstring," she says. "It's low-impact, low to moderate intensity. It's just rocking or gliding forward and backward into the hip muscles. Moving away from an object is what Ramping is all about."

Like a Step Training device, Ramp participants use primarily four moves. From there, she says, they can take it any number of places.

She and her team designed the product by looking at how the human body works, she says.

"If you push and press and lunge from a surface straight ahead, you just need a board. ... If you're going to move in motions that include turning or diagonal motions, you have to have a ramp to accommodate how that foot strikes."

Yes, it sounds a bit confusing. Miller agrees. It's much harder to describe in words than to see it, she says.

She thinks this device could get non-exercisers out of the recliner.

"The most important message I want to get out is that Ramping is for everybody," says Miller, a very youthful 47. "It's a gentler, friendlier, simpler motion than stepping. There's no hoisting your body up and down, just rocking and pushing. For people who need somewhere to start, Ramping is for them."

She teaches it at Gin Miller Fitness in Atlanta. In one class, she has clients with arthritis, senior citizens, people who have undergone hip replacements, overweight participants who haven't been to a gym in years, if ever.

"We want to see very big, very heavy, very de-conditioned people in our Ramping classes," she says.

Since the concept is still fairly new, only 20 gyms across the United States offer Ramping, Miller says.

The device will be available for individual sale around December; the at-home model will cost about $99, the club version about $30 more.

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(c) 2003, The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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