Hill running is no easy walk in the park.

Many runners find hills to be a love/hate relationship because they are difficult to run up, but they also make you stronger.

If you find hills challenging and don’t know how to tackle them, this article is for you. We’re going to show you how to master them once and for all.

The Benefits of Hill Running

Running uphill requires more leg-muscle power than running on flat surfaces, making it a great way to boost fitness. It also engages the muscles of the core, lower body, and arms in ways that are different from running on flat surfaces.

When you are running uphill, your knees will be lifted high, your arms will be moving forcefully, and your toes will be pushing off the ground. This will help to strengthen all the muscles in your body.

Also, since hill workouts are intense, they can improve your VO2 max and endurance. This is because when you work out intensely, your cardiovascular system has to work hard to keep up with the increased energy demand, making it stronger and more efficient.

Hill running will improve your strength, speed, and overall running ability.

If you want to improve your overall fitness, adding hills to your workout routine is key. This can be in the form of short hill sprints, long hill repeats, or adding drills.

A Word of Caution Before You Start Hill Running

Please keep in mind that hill training is tough.

If you want to avoid getting injured, focus on building up your endurance and strength first, then head to the hills.

Hill training is intense to the extreme.

You should only do them once a week, especially if you’re a beginner.

How to Conquer Hill Running

If you’re someone who hates running up hills, it may be because you’ve been going about it the wrong way.

If you follow these hill training guidelines, you can look forward to enjoying running uphills and downhills.

Find a Good Hill

First, find a hill that you can run up that is not too long and not too steep.

Beginners should look for hills that are between 100 and 200 meters long.

The angle of the incline should be enough to challenge you, but not so much that you can’t maintain good form.

The best inclines for walking are those that are around three to five percent.

Are no hills available?

If you live in an area that is mostly flat, you can simulate hill training by working the incline on the treadmill between four and six percent.

The Warm-up & Cool-Down

Working out on hills can be tough on your muscles and joints, so it’s important to do a dynamic warm-up before you start.

Make sure to get in a few minutes of slow jogging before you reach the bottom of the hill.

In order to make the most out of your warm-up, you should perform a set of dynamic exercises. See my routine here for more information.

After completing a session of hill training, your body will require time to adjust and return to its regular state.

That’s where right cool down comes into the picture.

Start Small – The Ideal Session

If you are new to hill-running, start with shorter hills that have a very small incline.

To start your first hill workout, begin by jogging slowly for five to 10 minutes to warm up. When you reach the bottom of the hill, begin running at a comfortable pace up the hill. Once you reach the top, slowly jog or walk back down to the bottom to recover. Repeat this process four to six times. This is what you should do for your first hill workout: Start by jogging slowly for five to 10 minutes to warm up. When you reach the bottom of the hill, begin running at a comfortable pace up the hill. Once you reach the top, slowly jog or walk back down to the bottom to recover. Repeat this process four to six times.

Last up, cool down with a 10-minute easy jog.

Control Your Body

Running hills efficiently calls for good rhythm.

If you let the hill dictate your pace, it will exhaust you, and you’ll have a hard time picking up the pace again.

Here’s what you need to do.

Instead, slow down and focus on taking controlled steps. When running uphill, it is more effective to slow down and focus on taking controlled steps rather than trying to maintain an equal pace.

Instead, shoot for an equal effort.

You will feel more energetic for the rest of your workout.

This means that you should go slowly up the hill, but keep the same level of effort the whole time.

When to Start

If you’re looking to start your hill training on the right foot, make sure to lay the proper foundation first.

Do not attempt hill training until you have done at least two to three months of base-building running. This will help ensure that you are physically prepared for the demands of hill training.

As a guideline, you should train at least three to four days a week, averaging 14 to 16 miles per week.

Include one hill workout in your weekly plan once you have built up your base.

The Exact Pace

The pace you train at depends entirely on the type of hill workouts you’re doing.

However, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that you are a beginner runner who just wants to try running hills without committing too much.

Do your hill work at around 70 to 80 percent of your maximum power if you are in that situation.

You shouldn’t start out by pushing yourself too hard, but your pace should at least be challenging.

I recommend that the first session should last no longer than 15 minutes.

The Very First Few Steps

Start at the bottom of a hill that is about 100 to 150 meters long and is not too steep.

I’d recommend running up the hill at a pace that would be best for a 5 kilometer race.

If you want to optimally run up a hill, you should be able to maintain the same level of effort as when running on a flat surface.

You can push yourself hard while going uphill, but be careful not to lose good form.

The Uphill Form

Many people make the mistake of having bad form when they try to run up a hill, but with a little practice, you can master it.

Here are a few tips to help you find what you’re looking for.

To maintain proper alignment, imagine a horizontal line and ensure that your hips, chest, and head are all perpendicular to it.

Doing so takes pressure off your legs and makes it less efficient for increasing speed. Your body should remain upright both up and down the hill. Lean in slightly from the hips, but do not slouch when going up the hill—that’s a common mistake many make uphill. Doing so takes pressure off your legs and makes it less difficult for increasing speed.

Say to yourself “The head, the head, the head” Do not look down at your feet or up the hill, but keep your focus on your head and say to yourself, “The head, the head, the head.”

Make sure your chest and head are both up, and that you’re looking at the ground about 10-20 feet in front of you.

Hill Workouts For Strength, Speed, And Injury Prevention

Although hill workouts are tough, they help improve your endurance, speed, and strength.

Hills are one of a kind when it comes to working out and that makes them very valuable.

Short Reps

Short hill repetitions are the traditional type of hill workout that most of us think of.

Intervals are typically 60-90 seconds in length, with a brief recovery period of easy jogging or walking before starting the next interval.

Typically, these hill workout are completed at a quick pace on an incline that is 4-7%. They are shorter than most workouts, but still provide a challenge.

This is a classic VO2 Max workout, which helps the body increase its ability to deliver and process oxygen to hard-working muscles.

Not only is this workout helpful for those looking to improve their strength, but it is also helpful for those who have injuries.

Here are a few examples of short hill rep workouts:

10 x 90sec hills at 5k Pace

8 x 60sec hills at 3k Pace

If you’re looking to add some speed-work to your long runs, this descending ladder workout is a great option. Start by running at your 10k pace for 90 seconds, then drop down to 60 seconds at a faster pace. From there, drop down to 45 seconds at an even faster pace. Finish up with a few minutes of easy running to cool down.

There is a lot of flexibility in designing short hill workouts. You can change the pace, length of time for the reps, and the number of reps to suit your needs.

Incorporating these hill workouts into the later stages of your running season will help you focus on power and speed.

Circuit

The most challenging aspect of a hill workout is typically the recovery jog, which is done at a faster pace.

This makes it so that you can’t recover as much between repetitions and makes the workout more like aerobics.

Here are a few examples:

  • 8 x 90sec hills at 5k effort, jog down recovery at marathon effort
  • 8 x 45sec hills at 3k effort, jog down recovery at 10k/half marathon effort

The workouts are similar to track workouts, but the rest periods are run at a more challenging pace.

When you are trying to improve your speed for a shorter race, it is best to use these workouts in the middle or later stages of your training.

The more difficult the workout, the more it is appropriate for the later stages of a training cycle because it will get you into peak shape sooner.

You can only be in your best shape for a short period of 6-8 weeks.

Hill Sprints

Hill sprints are a great way to get some extra cardio in and they’re a lot of fun.

Hill sprints are workouts that you do after a run that last 8-10 seconds. They are short and max intensity and help improve your conditioning.

Because the hill is so steep – and the pace is as fast as you can go – they recruit as many muscle fibers as possible, helping you:

  • Increase stride power
  • Engage more muscle fibers
  • Improve running economy
  • Strengthens muscles and connective tissues (helping with injury prevention)

What if You Don’t Have Hills?

If you want to train like you’re on a hill without actually being on a hill, use a treadmill.

Follow these basic rules to get the most from treadmill hill sessions:

  • Run a thorough warmup before any workout (hills or otherwise)
  • Hill reps can be run on a grade of 3-7% depending on the type of workout (see above!)
  • Take 2-4 minutes of recovery on a flat incline at an easy effort in between reps

You can get all the benefits of hills by running a lot, lifting weights, and using a treadmill.

 

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Rhoda is an award-winning dietitian, mature age model, and CEO of Sayvana Women.  

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