Runners have a love/hate relationship with hills. And while sometimes it’s an obstacle just to get motivated to lace up, adding hill repeats into regular running schedules is worth that uphill climb.
For the longest time, I used to avoid hills at all costs. It’s much easier to stick to the flat lands, never going out of the running comfort zone. I even made sure my first half marathon was a flat and fast course because doing hills and 13.1 miles seemed impossible.
But then later running a half marathon that did include hills, I quickly found that I had undertrained and wasn’t as prepared to face them. This caused my time to suffer since I had to slow down and needed more time to recover.
Then I moved to an area that included a large hill on my regular running route. It was tough, but running it all the time did make me feel stronger. Running hills still isn’t my favorite, but in the years since (and as my running as improved), I learned to embrace it and let it hurt so good.
Why Run Hills?
Running hills is a must for increasing endurance and makes the runner fast. It also makes them a better runner overall.
As my amazing running coach Jen Vieth (RRCA certified, ACE – GFI, NASM – PT) explained to us She Runs! ladies before this week’s group run, running hill repeats switches things up to make the body work differently during the run.
She explained that we often get into a steady rhythm of our runs, doing the same motions, similar course or mileage throughout the week. But running a hill is a different kind of run. It requires different effort. It engages different muscles, strengthening the muscular system.
Running a hill means an increase in heart rate. This aids in building endurance so that you can run a longer distance, as well as makes the runner faster. The muscles contract with more force and the quads are used more to pick up the knees. Because the heart is beating faster, the heart rate associated with running hills is similar to the heart rate of when doing speed work on a track. And because the heart is pumping, runs that require less effort will seem easier.
It can also help improve form since going uphill means the runner is landing on the front of the foot instead of heel striking.
How To Run Hill Repeats
Because of all these great benefits, it’s smart to throw hill repeats into a typical week of running or training for a big race. The best way to run hill repeats is to first start my warming up. This can including some stretches and moves to get the heart rate going and blood flowing like lunges. Then start off with a jog/run around a section of the park or around a few blocks depending on where the hill is in relation to the course running.
Then it’s time to climb that hill. It’s important not to lean forward, curving the back when running uphill. This will cause a backache, so instead think “run tall” and lean at the ankles. And pump those arms. Pretend you are holding ski poles and swing those arms. Do so and I promise you will feel stronger and go a bit faster.
Coming down, aim to land on the front of your foot. Landing on the heel means braking, and this can cause strain on the body. Think controlled but not stopping.
Go up the hill and back down twice, and then do another loop running on flat roads/pavement. Repeat at least twice, but don’t worry about distance. Instead, think about effort. Finish the workout anywhere from 30 to 40 mins.
Sources: Runners World