Runners know that running hills is a necessary evil. Here is my ultimate guide to not only run hills, but to actually look forward to them.
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According to some runners, going out and running hills is equivalent to being chosen as “tribute”. If you aren’t familiar with the book The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, it’s not a good thing. However! Running hills doesn’t have to be that bad and in fact, you can actually look forward to it. Am I crazy? Yep, but I know you’re intrigued, so keep reading 🙂
There is a half marathon that I run in the fall yearly now, and I’ll never forget the first time I signed up for it. The very first sentence of the description of the race is “What goes up, must come down”. I thought well isn’t that cute. They weren’t joking. There is literally a hill of decent proportions just about every 1/4 – 1/2 a mile for 13 miles, y’all.
So! At the time I was mainly a flat runner and the flatter the better. Which means that a training plan needed to be found and it needed to be found immediately. Based off of feedback I had gotten from a fellow runner in California, I used the training plan from In Motion Fit to get whipped into shape for these hills. It was perfect, I used it and still use some of their methods to this day to prepare for that same race every year. By the way- I am an RRCA Running Coach and will soon be offering personalized training plans for those that would like. Be sure to subscribe to my e-mail list to be the first to know when that launches!
First thing is first
Understand why you will be adding hills to your running routine. Yes, I said add; if you are a beginning runner, I do NOT recommend jumping right into hills, your body will not be happy with you and then you’ll hate me, and it just won’t be a good thing. Watch for an upcoming post on running for beginners!
Once you understand why you’re adding hills to your routine (faster over all pace, preparing for a race, increased lung capacity, etc.) That’s when you find a training routine that works for you.
Set your eye on the prize
Keep your head up! Lock your eyes on the top of that hill and never look at your feet. I promise you that they are still there and they are still moving even though you felt like they fell off at your hip somewhere along the way. There are several reasons for keeping your head up, but the main one is that when you look at your feet it can constrict your breathing which makes it even harder to get up that hill. You MUST be able to breathe properly or your run just got a heck of a lot harder. Breathing takes me into my next point…
Take a Breath!
In through your nose and hard push of breath out through your mouth. Repeat this motion over and over, focus on expanding your lungs not just shrugging your shoulders to get a deep breath. Your lungs will probably start to feel hard or restricted and that’s okay, really work on expanding those lungs. Make the breathing motion actually come from your lungs and not your shoulders shrugging. Practice before you go running, your muscles will create muscle memory which is vital to good form for not only running, but exercise in general!
Get on your Toes
Remember, we are talking about hill running here. A normal run stride should be a mid foot strike rolling to the ball of the foot and pushing off of the ball of the foot to swing the leg forward for a lengthy stride. Hill Running is the absolute opposite. You run on your toes up a hill with shorter strides. This means your calves will hate you and they will burn. However, the flip side of that is your legs will look amazeballs. 🙂 Reason for shorter strides on your toes up hill is that it gives you more leverage to scale the hill. Too long of a stride and you chance tripping or pulling a muscle. If tripping isn’t bad enough, tripping on a hill is 100 times worse.
On the note of calves hating you and running on your toes, if you know that you are going to be running a lot of hills, and you have struggled with shin splints in the past, I recommend that you grab some compression sleeves for your calves. They’re awesome and help increase blood flow all while reducing risk of injury to your calves and shins. If you’ve never had trouble with it before, you maybe alright to start on those hills with no issue. Either way, you can Check these out on Amazon by Run Forever
E for Effort
When you are running hills, remember E for effort not S for Speed. Why? Because it works.
Let me tell ya, there is a hill in my town that every single local runner knows because it is loooooonnnngggg and then about 3/4 of the way to the top, it decides to go straight up. I’ve run that hill both ways – based on effort and based on speed and each time I run on effort vs. trying to race up the hill going as fast as I can, I get further and faster every time with effort. That doesn’t mean you have to run slow, although if slow is what it takes then take it slow! Effort means a nice steady pace because when you peak that hill and start down the other side, your speed will naturally increase.
That’s it! There is your Hunger Games Guide to Running Hills.
Bottom line is this, you will surprise yourself. Believe it or not, I actually look forward to running hills now. Why? I not only see a difference in my running stamina, but I see a stamina increase in my Crossfit (what I use to cross train) workouts and my everyday life.
I want to hear about your running adventures! Send me a line or drop a comment below!