Hills…. They can cause a runner to get anxiety or they can actually make a runner excited. Weird right? There usually isn’t an in between; it really is one of those love ’em or hate ’em relationships.
Some people don’t believe me, but hills really are a fabulous way to get to your running goals more quickly.
There is a hill in my hometown that every single runner knows about. It is super long, and it is a gradual climb then about 3/4 of the way up, it goes straight up hill. I run that hill often because it is very challenging but it really helps when I’m running the smaller hills on how to get through them.
Let’s talk about how to actually look forward to running hills.
I’ll start with the Don’ts:
DON’T run downhill the same way you run uphill.
This takes a little bit of practice. A normal run stride should be a mid foot strike rolling to the ball of the foot and pushing off of the ball of the foot to swing the leg forward for a lengthy stride. Uphill Running is the absolute opposite with shorter strides and on your toes. Reason for shorter strides on your toes up hill is that it gives you more leverage to scale the hill. Too long of a stride and you chance tripping or pulling a muscle. If tripping isn’t bad enough, tripping on a hill is 100 times worse. Been there, done that! For downhill running especially if it is a steep hill, lean back just a touch to keep yourself from tripping and doing somersaults down the hill. Keep your stride fairly short until the hill starts to level out then you can lengthen your stride back out and voila, you’re back to normal stride.
DON’T run up the hill as fast as you can.
Remember E for Effort not S for Speed. Why? Well quite frankly because it works. There is a hill in my town that every single local runner knows because it is super long and then about 3/4 of the way to the top, it decides to go straight up. So steep that you feel like you’re crawling on all fours. I’ve run that hill both ways – based on effort and based on speed and each time I run on effort vs. trying to race up the hill going as fast as I can, I get further faster every time with effort. That doesn’t mean you have to run slow, although if slow is what it takes then take it slow! Effort means a nice steady pace because when you peak that hill and start down the other side, your speed will naturally increase.
Next we have the Dos
DO make sure that you have sufficiently warmed up your muscles.
This includes a bit of flat running or a few drills and stretching, however your little heart desires. For my athletes that I personally train I have them do active warm ups. I don’t have them fully stretch on cold muscles, I just don’t think it’s a good idea. When it’s super cold out there I coach them on wearing the proper clothing but I also have them do some brisk walking, moving into a slow jog, THEN if they want to stretch they can but I actually recommend stretching after. Bottom line? Warm up. Be kind to your muscles and get them ready for action.
DO remember to breathe.
In through your nose and hard push of breath out through your mouth. Repeat this motion over and over, focus on expanding your lungs not just shrugging your shoulders to get a deep breath. Your lungs will probably start to feel hard or restricted and that’s okay, really concentrate on expanding those lungs. This means make the breathing motion actually come from your lungs and not your shoulders shrugging. Practice before you go running, your muscles will create muscle memory which is vital to good form for not only running, but exercise in general!
DO keep your head up.
Set your eyes on that prize and lock them on the top of that hill and never look at your feet. There are several reasons for keeping your head up, but the main one is that when you look at your feet it can constrict your breathing which makes it even harder to get up that hill. You MUST be able to breathe properly or your run just got a heck of a lot harder (remember point one?). Exactly! Keeping your head up and your eyes focused will help you effectively scale that hill. I promise you will feel the difference.
DO grab some decent clothing.
If you’ve been around my blog long enough you know that I believe that good workout clothing is super important! When you’re running hills, your clothes will rub your skin differently than when you’re running flat. If you’ve ever had a blister or a place rubbed raw, you know how rough that is. That’s why good clothes are so important. Just Strong -Clothing for Women is an amazing clothing brand that I have partnered with that focuses specifically on the empowerment of women and providing them with quality clothing to workout in. This morning I ran in their leggings and T-back shirt (t-back shirts are called “vests” on the website)! Their t-back shirts are super soft which is great especially for running hills and distance. Head over to Just Strong Clothing and use Discount Code AGEORGE10 at checkout! P.S. They have shirts that have fantastic sayings on them like “Weights before Dates” or “He asked me to clean so I did 3 sets of 10”. You can see my lovely sweaty selfie with one of their shirts on.
My dos and don’ts for running hills. What do you think? Would running hills be less scary or more scary now? There’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of I promise. I have learned to come to enjoy hills.
I’m going to tell you a quick story then I’ll let you be on your way.
Quick story… Then a Freebie to Help You Reach Your Goals!
There is a half marathon that I run in the fall yearly now, and I’ll never forget the first time I signed up for it. The very first sentence of the description of the race is “What goes up, must come down”. I thought well isn’t that cute. They weren’t joking. There is literally a hill of decent proportions just about every 1/4 – 1/2 a mile for 13 miles, y’all.
At the time I was mainly a flat runner and the flatter the better. Which means that a training plan needed to be found and it needed to be found immediately. I found a training plan and looking back on it I wish that I had hired a running coach.
Running Hills Really isn’t that bad
Believe me or not, running hills really are not that bad. They can help you reach your race goals faster, and they can actually be fun if you think of them as a challenge to conquer vs. something that you ‘have to do’.
You can do this; don’t stress, just run.
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