Hill running is a major tenet of most training programs from 5k to ultra marathon. If it’s not a regular part of your running workouts, a special hill work session is usually scheduled at least once every two weeks in a quality training plan. To be successful running hills, you have to be good at going both up and down them as well as have the power and endurance to do it more than once. To rock the next hilly race course you face, here are a few tips to help you build the strength and power it takes to go up along with the control and balance required to get safely back down.
Pick the right hills. Not all hills are created equal. While there are lots that can help your hill running improve, training on one that’s too long, too short, too steep or not steep enough can render your workout ineffective. Running a long, gradual hill can increase strength, ankle flexibility and reduce neuromuscular inhibition, leading to better coordination. Sprinting a short steep hill will help build power and decrease neuromuscular inhibition, making it easier to run hard and fast. Choosing a hill that matches your workout is key to getting the most out of it.
Run at the proper speed/tempo/heart rate. Sprinting all out up and zooming willy nilly back down your favorite local hill isn’t an effective way to train. Plan your hill running workouts to target specific zones of strength and cardiovascular effort by working out on the right one at the correct intensity. Practice a downhill tempo that’s faster than going up, practice using gravity to help you recover on the way down and be sure to take appropriate rest between repeats.
Downhill matters, too. Leaning back on a downhill is common, we are trying to slow down to maintain balance. Unfortunately, leaning back ignores a chance for a gravity induced, no effort increase in speed. Keep your spine straight and perpendicular to the downhill surface to take advantage of a bonus pick up in pace while increasing your stride rate to get the most out of the hill’s ‘easy’ side.
Treat hill running like strength training. Don’t let it take over your running schedule and be sure to allow your body some extra time for recovery. A good hill workout should be done once every 8-10 days or even once every two weeks. If your normal route includes some hills, that’s great, but to really get the most out of them a special hill only workout is your best bet.
Use these hill running tips to help build your training plan and find success on the next hilly race course you face.