I know, I know. Hills stink. Believe me I get it. The last thing you want to see when you already are working hard to pound out the miles on flat ground is a long hill looming in front of you. But you better buckle up, Buttercup! Making hills a part of your running routine is important. Regular hill running builds strength, enhances endurance, improves efficiency and can even boost your confidence.
Just starting out on hill work? Here's how.
If you are looking to build your endurance, find a longer hill with a moderate grade. By longer I mean the hill should take you at least a few minutes to climb. Try running up and down the hill for three to five minutes, taking walk breaks as needed to avoid getting out of breath. Increase your workout by three to five minutes each week until you are running hills for a total of 30 minutes.
If you want to increase your strength, look for a hill with a moderate incline about 400-600 meters in length. Start with a slow jog and then build your speed as you run up the hill. You will find that your stride shortens and your cadence increases as you go. That is what you want. Breathing hard, especially near the top, is to be expected. Begin with just two repeats and then increase by one or two repeats each week.
Some people prefer to walk up every hill and of course you can do that but you won't be doing all you can to strengthen your muscles. Instead, try incorporating short jogs into your climb. No need to go fast, just pick up the tempo for a few seconds every now and then as you press up the hill. Soon you will find your jog breaks are lasting longer than your walk breaks.
As for powering up the hill just to get it over with? Yeah, that's my M.O. It's also not the best way to run a hill. All it does is make you tired and out of breath. A better option is to slow down some, shorten your stride and take short, quick steps on the way up. Then, lengthen your stride out once again after you crest the hill to improve your recovery.
Taking the time to not only run hills but run them correctly is important, especially if you are hoping to improve your running and reach your goals.