Hill running. We’ve all been there and know that unmistakeable feeling in the legs and lungs! It can of course be very uncomfortable, but the reality is that using inclines in your training is an extremely valuable tool in terms of progress. Whether you incorporate some hills into your usual run, or you perform a specific hill interval session, make sure you’re including them somewhere in your programme.
What are the benefits of hill running?
- Increase in intensity – When you perform a hill run, heart rate will naturally increase and essentially you’ll be working harder. Over time, this will improve both your aerobic and anaerobic capacity meaning that when you get back to running on flat terrain, it’ll feel easier and you’ll be running faster.
- Improved muscular strength endurance – This is experienced throughout the body but particularly in the legs and core as muscles have to work harder against gravity to propel you upwards as well as forwards. In turn, this could help with injury prevention too.
- Variety of training – As well as the physiological benefits, hills offer a different session to keep things fresh and interesting. Let’s face it, steady runs along the same flat routes can get a little tedious. Is it time to mix things up?
- Builds mental toughness – Hills can be extremely challenging not only physically but also mentally. If you want to prepare yourself for that 5k where you don’t take your foot off the gas, or that final 10k of a marathon where you have to seriously dig in, hill training is one of the best ways to do it.
How do you run hills successfully?
The key is to find that sweet spot where you’re challenged but not totally exhausted by the pace. Take the time to plan the route or the hills you want to work on. The distance and incline should allow you to complete them without failing.
Push yourself but don’t go mad. If you’re including a hill as part of a longer run, you want to be able to carry on after it. As part of an interval session, you want to be able to do the next rep. If you’re halfway up and really struggling, slow down!
You also want to ensure you’re tackling hills with good technique. This is essential in terms of running economy and injury prevention. I wrote a full article on this specific topic a while back and this can be found here.
If you’ve never run hills before, start small and build up gradually and sensibly. If you’ve done them in the past but have taken a break, I’d recommend getting back to them as soon as possible. They really are bang for your buck sessions!