Many runners avoid regular hill training or racing hill courses because, well, it’s hard. Depending on the grade of the hill, lactic acid builds quickly, our heart rate shoots up, several muscles fire all at once, and we tire quickly. Unfortunately, the only way to become proficient at ascending and descending hills is to run on hills.
I used to be intimidated by hills. More so on the bike then on the run. Running uphill is my strength, running downhill not so much.
Riding uphill makes me stronger on the flats.
I prefer uphill running more then downhill running, unfortunately when you run you, you must run down! Best advice I give to newbies to to tackle each hill in training, commit to never walking up hill and you will continue to get stronger both mentally and physically. Note if you do walk uphill is it cause your muscles or lungs are fatigued?
Reasons you should train on a hilly course, even if your event is a flat course.
- Hills will increase the intensity of your workout. When you increase the intensity of your workouts you expend more calories / unit of time.
- Hills will strengthen your legs (especially your quads, butt and calves). Strength precedes speed, so hills incorporated into a progressive training program will lead to more efficient and faster running
- Hills will strengthen your lungs and heart
- Hills Provide some variety to a traditional routine
Tips while running uphill
- Start with a warm-up to gradually get your legs loose and heart rate elevated (5-15 minutes)
- If you are new to hill training, progress gradually. View sample workouts below. It can be quite challenging on your body when you’re not used to it. Start with 2-4 repeats of 1-2 minutes and just run, don’t worry about pace
- When running uphill, shorten your stride and pump your arms more to help you attack the hill
- Mix up the grade and length of each hill you run on for maximum results with fitness, strength, and speed.
- Always Finish any hill workout with an easy jog or spin to flush the legs and cool-down.
- Stretching – focus on the calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and low back.
Do you live in flat terrain? You can still get all the benefits above on the treadmill
Tips when simulating uphill runs on the treadmill
- Listen to your body: Since fitness levels and running abilities vary greatly, it’s difficult to give an exact workout prescription (ie. run at a speed of 6.0 mph at 8% incline for 15 minutes). So choose a grade and pace that challenges you without causing exhaustion or muscle/joint strain.
- Try increasing the incline to 4-8% grade for 1-2 minutes at a speed that challenges you, but not a speed you can’t maintain, better to start slower and monitor your intensity via heart rate, followed by 1-2 minutes at 0% to simulate the downhill effect.
- For reference, 0% grade is exactly flat.
- A 2% grade does not seem very steep but it’s enough to make you feel a bit slow and fatigued and it like running outside.
- Most highway off-ramps are 4-percent grade.
- A 6% grade is enough to dramatically reduce your speed.
- A 10% grade would be really steep; steeper than most of the usual hills any of us who live outside of mountainous areas would run into.
Hill workouts can be really taxing and consequently should only be done once or twice per week pending your fitness and experience. In addition to uphill form, it’s equally vital to practice running downhill with proper form, relaxed with a forward lean. Try not to let your legs get too far out front as it can be jarring and “put on the brakes” instead of acceleration. Make sure you’ve built up a solid mileage base before adding in too many hill workouts.
Whether you’re building strength or going for a personal best, hill training will complete a well-rounded training regime and help you to become a more complete athlete.
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