The benefits of hill training
and mental strategies to help you
conquer them with confidence.
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:
You are aiming for equal effort going up as well as down, not equal pace.
Keep upright – don’t lean forward or back. Keep your feet low to the ground.
Use a light, ankle-flicking push-off with each step, not an explosive motion, which will waste energy.
If the hill is long or the gradient increases, keep shortening your stride to maintain a smooth and efficient breathing pattern. If the gradient decreases, extend your stride again.
Run through the top of the hill. Don’t crest the hill and immediately slow down or pull back on your effort.
Accelerate gradually into the downhill.
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:
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.