How to Run Hills!Oct 19, 2023
The Power of Running Up Hills!
Many a runner often dreads hills. The anticipation as you see it coming up. The fear that it's gonna hurt like hell and you'll have to stop because your lungs are on fire and your heart feels like it's going to burst! But, if you happen to live in a place that is surrounded by hills, you should consider yourself lucky - it's a brilliant thing!
Why? Because there are so many benefits to running up hills, and we really need to become friends with them and not see them as the enemy. They can be the secret weapon in your running arsenal, offering many benefits that can significantly enhance your performance.
Unlocking the Benefits of Hills
Running up hills is a valuable opportunity for additional training and should be seen as a bonus on your running route, not a hindrance. Tackling them head-on can substantially improve your overall running capabilities. They challenge your muscles in ways where flat surfaces fail and help to build resilience and stamina. Yes, it's hard, but the feeling you get at the top is immense (once you've got your breath back!).
Maximising Hill Training Strategies
Make the most of hill training by adopting particular techniques. Whether it's a brisk walk or implementing specific arm movements on your way to the top, using the incline to your advantage can help you maintain a steady pace and conserve energy. These strategies can enhance your overall running experience and endurance.
Experienced runners understand the importance of integrating hills into their training. They know that they help to build strength, endurance, and speed. So how can we help to make hills more manageable? Here are some tips on incorporating hills into your regular running routine.
Optimising Your Form
Maintaining the correct arm form while conquering hills is crucial. One effective technique is the 'pocket to socket' motion, which optimises energy usage and balance while ascending. This technique makes your hill running more efficient but also aids in preventing unnecessary strain and fatigue. This 'pocket to socket' motion is where your hands move from your back pockets to chest height.
Why does this help? Well, the momentum of your arm driving back, will help to propel you forwards up the hill. Think to yourself 'Use the arms - forget the legs'. It may feel silly, but you will be surprised how much you can move when you use your arms (think of stand-up comedian Michael McIntyre skipping and using his arms to swing forward!).
There is the temptation to get your head down and 'get it done', but the opposite should be happening. An upright posture will allow you to breathe more efficiently and distribute your energy more evenly. Keep your head up and gaze a few feet ahead. Looking down can cause you to overexert at the start by restricting the air around your lungs. Also, when you look down, it is far easier to get into the negative self-talk of "I can't do this". Try talking this way with your head up and looking ahead ... not so easy.
Obviously, we can't forget the legs altogether! With your arms driving, your legs will follow. The temptation is to take longer strides to 'get it over with'. In actual fact, taking shorter strides will provide better stability and reduce the risk of muscle strain. It will help to conserve energy, meaning you can run up the hill for longer.
Visualisation tip; Think of yourself as a prancy horse - driving those arms up, head up, and shorter strides 😉🐎
What goes up... must come down
So should you run a certain way when you come back down the hill? While it might feel like a relief at the start, running downhill can also be hard work. You don't want to be putting the breaks on, you want to go with the momentum of the descent but let's do this without becoming a tangled mess at the bottom of the hill!
Keep it controlled...
You don't want to completely lose balance as you freefall down the hill! Maintain control of your speed by leaning slightly forward and keeping your centre of gravity balanced. This stops excessive strain on your quads.
Same as uphill, keep your strides shorter to improve stability and reduce the impact on your joints.
Quick and light foot turnover will help to absorb the impact and reduce the risk of overstriding which might lead to an injury.
These aren't driving now... they are slightly wider and looser to help you keep your balance and stability as you make your way to the bottom.
Incorporating Hill Sessions into Your Routine
Integrating dedicated hill sessions into your regular runs is a proven way to enhance your overall performance. Start with smaller inclines and gradually progress to steeper ones to allow your body to adapt to the increased demands. Like with all things running, slow and steady wins the race... or prevents injury! This approach will help strengthen your leg muscles, improve cardiovascular endurance, and enhance your agility and speed.
It's All About the Growth
Hills are not just physical obstacles; they are your opportunities for growth. Including hills in your running plans can unlock your full potential as a runner. Yes, it feels uncomfortable and yucky, but if you embrace the challenge, hills will become your best friend in your journey toward becoming a stronger, more resilient runner.
Would you like help with incorporating hills into your running routine, with support and accountability? Then take a look at our VIP coaching,' The Inside Track'.