The benefits of hill training

Posted on: March 4, 2020

Hill running will make you stronger and faster.

Running hills achieves this by improving leg strength, developing your cardiovascular system and enhancing your running economy. What’s more, the benefits are relatively quick to take effect. With six weeks of regular hill training you can expect a significant improvement in your power and speed.

I hate running hills:

Some runners dread both focused hill sessions and encountering a hill on their weekly run – they would gladly run an extra 2km to avoid a hill! If you are one of these runners, it’s time to face this chink in your running armour and ‘embrace the hill’.

Here are 8 tips on how to shift gears both mentally and physically and prepare to attack.

Running form:

  • As you start uphill, shorten your stride.
  • Slow your pace.
  • Aim for equal effort going up as well as down (not equal pace).
  • Keep upright – don’t lean forward or back.
  • Use a light, ankle-flicking push-off with each step and conserve energy.
  • If the hill is long or if the gradient increases, keep shortening your stride to maintain a smooth and efficient breathing pattern. As the gradient decreases, extend your stride.
  • Run through the top of the hill.
  • Drive with your arms – your arm speed dictates the speed of your legs.

Mental strategies:

  • ‘Head down’ approach. Running a hill can be made much easier if you don’t keep looking at the top, thinking ‘Oh God…’. Instead, keep your focus just in front of you and think about your rhythm. By focusing on the ground just ahead and substituting the ‘I can’t’ with thoughts of how this is building a strong power base within you, you can conquer any gradient. ‘I can and I will’.
  • Use a target: this is particularly useful when you are training with others. Focus on the person just ahead of you. Maintain a steady pace and shift your focus to a person ahead – you are distracting yourself from the effort required to run the hill.
  • Counting: At the bottom of the hill decide on the number of steps you think it will take you to get to the top. Count in 10s until you either make it or you have to reset your goal.
  • Bungee: Imagine you have a piece of elastic attached to you and the top of the hill. It’s under tension and it’s pulling you towards it.

Hill repeats can be hard both physically and mentally, but they give you a huge sense of accomplishment once you’ve completed them!

Those hills are your friend – see them as such – include them in your training and you will see a difference to your running.

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