Let’s have a chat about Hill Running Benefits. There are a host of them but yet hills remain dreaded by most road runners. Some even actively avoid them sometimes. Hills can immediately add a bump of fatigue to our run and can be mentally draining as they can pummel our pace down on the incline as well as at the peak or downhill as we have to recover. So… why would anyone want to run hill repeats?
Hill Running Benefits:
- Running in the hills comfortably with finesse and good form is highly beneficial for our strength and conditioning as a runner. Incline hill running is actually the most specific way to improve running strength. They basically provide a no-cost gym for runners and also has the benefit of being outside as well!
- Running uphill Improves running economy, speed and power/explosiveness
- Uphill Running enhances our aerobic ability, lactate threshold, fatigue resistance, VO2max
- Running down hill is great way to develop relaxed speed and can improve form by improving cadence, coordination and leg speed.
- Improves legs and gluteus strength and reduces our risk of injuries
- The benefits of hill sprints also includes improving mental toughness and strength; especially for hilly race courses
- If we want to maximise the amount of running calories burned in 1 hour then running uphill is certainly one way to do it!
How to do Hill Running Training or Hill Repeats:
- Find a hilly segment or course with few hills. Better yet, head to the mountain ranges! If you live in a really flat area, then the home or gym treadmill with an incline function will also do the trick). Staircases are also an excellent alternative.
- As always, warm up for 10 minutes at minimum with a jog
- Then do some strides of 50-80m for 4-10 sets to get our large muscle activated and ready for the strength workout
- Do our first hill repeat by running hard up the hill for ~100metres (200-300metres for advanced runners).
- Decide whether we will be running downhill or recovering downhill and then A. Run downhill with relaxed speed and with a slight forward lean. Or B. Walk or slowly jog down.
- Recover at the bottom for a short period before commencing our next hill repeat. If we are a beginner, start with 4-5 repeats as a starting point and build up by 2 additional repeats each week as our fitness improves.
Pro Tip from the Swedes for Running in the Hills:
Bounce Running up hills have been used by Swedish marathon runners to improve running economy and it has been scientifically proven to do so in a study in Stockholm, Sweden. In fact, the group of Swedish marathoners that were studied improved their running economy by 3% (Link article).
How to do Bounce Running on our Hill Repeats:
- Instead of simply running a hard effort uphill, we change our technique to a more vertical approach where the goal of each stride is to launch explosively upwards
- With each stride, lift the non-working knee upwards and explosively as well.
- We should be airborne for a longer period than normal running if we are doing this correctly
- Land mid-foot, load energy onto the working leg and then explode upwards again as described previously until we have finished our repeat.
- It should look and feel like we are leaping up the hill with large strides
This is also a great drill for developing glute and calf strength as it places great demands on them. The glutes are needed for the large hip extension component of bounding upwards and the calves are recruited to store and unleash greater amounts of energy on each stride.
We add Bounce Running to our hill repeats once we have become well-familiarised with hill repeats and want to add some variation.
Our Hill Running Training – Key Tips to keep in mind:
How do we run up a hill? We keep our body tall, keep our chest up and look forward. We do not bend at our waist to cause a significant forward lean as, not only does it make running hills harder, it is bad for our running form. Unfortunately, this is how most people run hills.
We use our glutes and calves to power ourselves up the hill. Working these muscles will drastically improve our flatter road running!
If we are just starting out, we don’t try to go all out on the up hills. Focus on keeping a good, hard effort with good form. Remember: Train but don’t Strain.
On the downhills, we remember to not lean backwards, heel-strike and foot-slap our way down. We resist the urge to run a full sprint down hill as it is higher impact. Instead, we focus on running efficiently with relaxed speed and high cadence. Remember, we want running physical benefits, not running physical injuries.
Before You Go Running Off
Running hill repeats can drastically improve our running form and abilities. We love to hate them but we also hate to love them!
We make sure to include hill repeats once a week or once a fortnight into our running programs. Remember that the first few sessions will feel very tough. However, once we get used to them and see the benefits, we didn’t want to stop doing them regularly!