Whether you love them or hate them, running up hills is a sure way to improve your strength, speed and stamina.
WHY HILL RUNNING WORKS
Hill running strengthens tendons and ligaments in your hips, legs, ankles and feet, reduces the risk of injury and improves overall running form. Running uphill makes your muscles contract more powerfully because you are overcoming gravity as you move up the hill.
It’s a fantastic addition to any strength work you do in the gym or at home because you recruit all your ‘running muscles’, rather than isolating them as you would when using a leg press for example. The result is more power, which in turn leads to longer, faster running strides.
TIPS FOR RUNNING UP HILL
A lot of coaches talk about ‘attacking the hill’ because you need more focus and determination during a hill climb. But essentially running uphill is all about rhythm; if you let the hill break up your rhythm you will slow down dramatically.
KEEP YOUR RHYTHM
To maintain your rhythm as you start to ascend, firstly you need to set one - either count in your head, or focus on the tempo of your arms pumping back and forth.
As you start uphill, think about lifting your heels up behind you in a circular motion as this will help to shorten your stride length and recruit your power muscles - hamstrings and glutes. This should be a gentle increase in heel lift, not an explosive push off.
Aim for the same effort going up hill as you do on the flat but vary the pace. Running uphill at the same pace you were when running on the flat will leave you exhausted later on. So keep the focus on your rhythm and don’t worry about how fast you are travelling.
Your posture should be upright. Don’t lean forward or back - your head, shoulders and back should ideally form a straight line over your feet.
TIPS FOR RUNNING DOWN HILL
The key to running downhill is to stay in control. Most runners either sprint which causes severe muscle soreness later on, or they’re so hesitant to surrender to gravity that they constantly brake which fatigues the quadriceps muscles. The optimum pace is somewhere in between.
When running downhill focus on stepping lightly and don’t reach out with your feet, this will prevent your feet from slapping on the ground and putting excess force through your lower leg. Increasing your cadence will also help you to do this as it will prevent over striding, therefore minimising injury risk.
Try to maintain an upright body posture and focus on engaging your core so you don’t lose control and let gravity take over.
KEEP IN CONTROL
If you do start to run out of control when descending, make your movements smaller by shortening your stride until you feel you are back in control again.