Saturday, 22 September 2012

How to run up hills

Running up hills has many benefits for almost every runner; myself included.  I blogged about this in March 2011.  While there are clear benefits, I think it helps to have a good technique to make the most of these opportunities.  My comments below might be of benefit if you have already made a start at running and can, for example, run for at least 30 minutes without stopping.

  • Try to build at least one hill into your training run.  Okay, I accept if you live in rural Norfolk and other places not well known for their mountainous terrain, that could be a problem.  You might be able to find some urban feature like a multi story car park where you could sneak in for a run.
  • If the hill is reasonably steep, you will probably find you are running on the ball of your foot, rather than a heel-to-toe action.  That's absolutely fine.  As the hill gets steep you really need to to it like this - impossible otherwise!  Allow you feet time to adjust to this, especially if you're a new runner.
  • Try to judge how difficult or easy the hill will be - then try and keep the same pace all the way up.  This probably means not going too fast at the start.  By keeping the same pace, if you can, you will derive maximum benefit.  Sometimes takes a little trial and error to get this right.  Whatever you do, please don't push yourself too hard and expire.
  • I find it helpful to concentrate on my breathing rhythm.  Don't know why exactly, it just seems to help.
  • Some runners find it helpful to count, again helpful in getting into a good rhythm.  Some count 1,2,3,4, 1, 2, 3, 4 etc.
  • Your arm movements, I believe, make an incredible difference.  The action of swaying your arms from side-to-side helps with balance and keeping those strides and footfall right.  If it helps, imagine you are holding a face flannel and you're rubbing your tummy from side to side with you elbows at right angles.
  • Clearly you need to lean forward slightly.  It goes without saying this will help you to balance but try carrying on when you go down the other side (but only slightly).  This will lesson the strain on your feet and legs through the pounding reverberating up from your shoes.  
  • When you get to the top, don't be afraid to rest for a minute.  Your heart rate might be at it's maximum for your age, or perhaps even higher.  Resting for a minute and then jogging for a while is fine, before you pick up some speed again
  • Once you have found running up hills have helped you improve your strength, cardiovascular capacity and running form, why not find some more challenging hills?
  • Do you stretch at all, before or after a run?  I prefer stretching after a run and when my muscles are warm.  Forward lunges are relevant for running up hill.  Also stretching musles from your heel up towards the back of your knee.  With you feet flat on the ground, try leaning forward toward some solid - a wall, a kitchen work top etc.  Hold at the point just before it starts to hurt and then ease off.  Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.  It is important not to stretch too far to the point of hurting: take care to avoid an injury.
  • Longer, less steep hills are ideal for improving stamina, especially if they are a mile or more
  • When I have been feeling really keen, I have reached the top of a hill, rather than just carrying on over my normal route, I have gone back down and run back up again.  I have done that on a 20% hill before now.  Do that a few times and you will seriously improve your fitness!
As I mentioned above, don't push yourself too hard.  Running up hill is likely to place some strain on your heart for the duration of the hill.  Know your limits and in an ideal world, going over your maximum heart rate should only be in short bursts.

Over all, running hills is brilliant.  I remember the times when I was just getting into running and I'd avoid them like the plague.  Persevere, don't give up.

Related post:
The benefits of running up hill

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