You're running along perhaps pre-race or trying out a new course, you turn the corner and what do you see? Most runners' biggest obstacle: the hill. When you're used to running on the flat or perhaps inside on the treadmill when you come across a hill it is often mentally and physically exhausting if you haven't prepared for them in advance.
Why Train with Hills?
According to runnersworld.com "training on hills improves leg-muscle strength, quickens your stride, expands stride length, develops your cardiovascular system, enhances your running economy and can even protect your leg muscles against soreness. In short, hill running will make you a stronger, faster and healthier runner." Surely having that kind of power added to your running is worth the sacrifice of adding the dreaded hill to your running arsenal.
One problem that runners may experience is lack of strength in their legs when they first attempt hills. A common reaction to that is to hit the gym and train those muscles used when you run. However, whilst it is important to work on your lower body strength it is also important to have functional strength which is acquired through hill runs; strength training while you run, simple.
Functional strength training is not like conventional training where you isolate muscles but you coordinate all of the muscles needed for that movement incorporating the stabilization muscles too. You also work on flexibility of the muscles, tendons and ligaments; running up a hill stretches the calf when the heel of the foot lands to take your body weight). By incorporating this form of training it is less likely that you will also lose a lot of fitness when you take a break from training.
Tips for Running Up and Down a Hill
- Shorten your stride but keep the same turnover rhythm you had on the flat
- Keep the same effort but not pace - you'll be tired for the rest of the race if you do so
- If your breathing quickens or becomes strained back off on your pace, you're going too fast
- As you begin to go down hill land lightly on the ball of your foot it will lessen the chance of strains
- Accelerate as you progress down hill and imagine gravity pulling you
- Don't lengthen your stride just yet but increase your turnover - quicker strides
If you have any other tips for hill running feel free to share in the comments.
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