In short, hill training is good for you and it’s good for your running. Why…? Because…
Hill running will make you a stronger, faster and healthier runner.
Running hills does this by improving leg-muscle strength, quickening your stride, expanding stride length, developing your cardiovascular system and enhancing your running economy. What’s more, the benefits are relatively quick to take effect. With six weeks of regular hill training you can expect a significant improvement in your muscle power and speed.
Facing a hill
Some runners dread both hill sessions and fear being faced with a hill in training. My suggestion is that next time you have to run a hill decide to not wince and think ‘I can’t’ but rather focus. Shift gears both mentally and physically and prepare to attack the hill, take it on. To run a hill well and for it not to get you down, it’s all about maintaining a steady rhythm. Pick a sustainable pace, suitable for the length and gradient, and bosh it off.
Here’s some more thoughts on how to attack it:
What mental games are there to help me runs hill with more ease?
Hill repeats are hard both physically and mentally but you feel bloody good after you’ve completed them!
These are mental strategies I have used when running hills
I also use the counting trick. At the bottom I set a number of steps I think it will take me to get to the top and I count in 10s until I either make it or I have to reset my goal. Again, I keep my head down until I have counted out the set number, I am usually at the top or just short of the top when I look up and a short concerted effort gets me over the crest.
It is also to be noted here that what I have written will help you train on hills and attack them in a more convincing and positive way. Once in a race by all means use these tactics too but sense, and race tactics, must prevail. Most ultra athletes will walk the very steep stuff to conserve energy for later stages of the race. I would adopt a fast, active walk to get up a hill in this situation. Again what I said about rhythm applies to the walking pace as much as it does when running them.