Hills can be a runner’s best frenemy. We love hills because they make us faster & stronger, but we hate them because they literally take our breath away!
When run properly, hill runs, and hill repeats can actually double as speedwork. This is due to the fact that hill running can improve your aerobic fitness levels. Use these tips to help improve your form and speed while running hills.
6 Tips for Running Hills
1) Lean into the hill.
When running up hill, lean forward so that the angle of your body roughly matches the angle of the incline. Try to avoid slumping your shoulders as you run, as this reduces the amount of air you are able to take in with each breath. Keep your shoulders back, and your hips forward. If you can, try to lean from the ankles, not at the waist.
2) Keep your head up.
Runners have a natural tendency to put their heads down, and try to power up the hill. This creates two problems. First, your eyes are focused on the trail or road directly under your feet, instead of several feet ahead. This can lead to trips and falls, as you are giving your brain less time to react to changes in the terrain. Second, your torso tends to follow the direction your head points. If your head is pointed down, you are more likely to slump over while running. Check out this article from Runner’s World to read more about maintaining proper running form from your head to your feet.
3) Use your arms to help you power up the hill.
Think of your arms as pistons used to propel your body forward. Drop your arms and relax your shoulders. Tuck your elbows in towards your waist, and pump your arms straight forward and backward. Do not allow your shoulders to tense up, or your arms to come across your torso, as this breaks your forward momentum.
4) Drive through your hips.
When running uphill, use your hips and glutes to power your body forward. Your back leg should be fully extended after each step to ensure that you are getting the most power behind your stride.
5) Don’t brake on the downhill.
Use a similar forward lean when running downhill as well. When you lean backwards while running downhill it causes you to brake, which adds additional stress onto your joints, and slows your momentum. Allow gravity to do most of the work for you. Depending on how steep and technical the downhill is, you can control your speed by altering the length of your stride.
Sidenote: On very steep, technical trails you may need to sidestep your way down the hill. Use your judgement, and gradually increase your speed as your downhill running ability improves.
6) If you can’t find a hill, improvise!
Some areas may not have the benefit of having hills to train on. If this happens to be the case where you live, improvise by finding something that can mimic a hill. Try running over bridges, or up steps to gain the same benefits as hill running. You can also crank up the incline on a treadmill to challenge your legs in the same manner.
With a little practice, you will be on your way to improving your speed, and becoming a stronger runner. If you have any questions, or any additional tips you would like to add, let me know in the comments below!
Hey there, you amazing runner!
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