The Benefits of Hill Running Sessions

What’s the secret to dramatically improving you running times?  Hill Running.  Here’s some advice, and a few pictures, all about this hugely important training aid.


Have you ever felt like you’ve hit a wall with your running?

You may be running on a hill, or a flat section of a course, but your mind is always telling your legs and arms to drive, pump and fire like pistons. As long as you are pushing yourself, your muscles will always be aching and crying out for mercy.

Push It

This is a sign that you are pushing your body to perform beyond its capacity. This signals that our body is not capable of supplying the necessary blood and oxygen, which our muscles require to meet our mind’s demands .

But have you asked yourself: do you incorporate regular and functional hill drills into your routine? Do you vary your workouts? How do you approach the hill?



The Huge Benefits of Hill Training

How well we perform on hill trainings depends on how we approach the hill. For most of us we see hill repeats as chance to conquer or attack the hill.

One tactic to approach the hill is to see it as a friend, rather than an enemy trying to defeat us. Look at it as an animate object providing a spring board to propel us forward; a friendly boost.

Another helpful metaphor is to imagine that there are strings attached to your hands and its ends are tied at the top of the hill.

Hill Running Technique

Pushing the knees, as well as toeing-off and slapping of the heel on the buttocks are some of the facets that one must focus on.

Specifically, when done at a slower pace, a runner can focus more on the technique, and in reality may feel more soreness than he or she expected.

As you pump your arms, thrusting your elbows behind you, imagine the strings are giving you leverage to pull yourself up more easily.

Many people ignore the importance of fine tuning, or addressing our bio mechanics, which is considered as one of the most manageable factors of training, and the key to improvement.

Work on your Bio Mechanics

As opposed to the popular belief, it is not the leg on the ground that is mainly responsible for generating the power to make forward velocity. Rather it is the non weight bearing leg, the leg in the swing phase, which generates the momentum by creating a tug on the runner’s center of gravity as it swings forward.

Levers and Propellers

The foot on the ground acts as a lever, and propels the runner forward. The muscles responsible for this powerful stroke in the hip flexors are the iliacus, psoas major and psoas minor. These are also the most important muscles for cyclists, as they are employed during the pulling up phase.

One way to strengthen your hip flexors and improve the power of your swing phase is to do hill repeats.

Hill Repeats

It often surprises people that running hills improves speed. But actually, running hills is in itself speed work in disguise.

Another benefit of hill running is that even if you reduce your pacing, your endurance will increase as you run up a hill. This is because moving your body up the hill requires more work than moving it along a flat surface. That is why hill running is equivalent to running in a sudden rush on a flat surface.

Race Application

So while racing, the best way to run up a hill is to maintain your stamina, and forget about the pace while on the hill. Consistent effort is the surest route to a faster time. Trying to maintain your pacing while on the hill is like rushing and changing the body’s apparent effort, which will only result in experiencing fatigue prematurely.

Incorporate Fartlek Training

Then how can one develop vigorous, aggressive, power strokes using hill workouts? One way to sustain endurance is hill Fartlek (Swedish for speed play).

Pick a hill and focus on rushing up  it.  Now if you’re doing strict hill repeats, try varying the paces.

For example, if you are doing four sets of three hills, do the first at 5k pace and the second at 10k pace. Focus on slow and exaggerated form on the third hill. So instead of varying the pace at which you run, you can vary the hill lengths themselves.



Group Work

If you are working in a group, pair up with someone and design the running style like a relay, so that your rest depends on how long it takes for your partner to get up and down the hill. If you decide to run hills by time (i.e. 90 seconds on 5 hills), mark laps with a rock or a little flag.

Try to beat your own record with each repeat. It is a good practice to surge ahead and reach the top of the hill. After all, who wants to be beaten out at the top of the hill just because they’ve slowed down?

Hip Flexors

As runners, triathletes need to recognize the importance of strengthening our hip flexor muscles. Strong flexors help us maintain a tough pace, attack a hill, kick with speed on the flats, and protect our body from injury. It is an integral part of training throughout the season. Through variation, it can help us to be more efficient runners, and cyclists.

So go ahead, be king of the hill!


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