The Upside of Running Hills

Most runners detest hills and avoid them at all costs. I love them and believe that when used correctly, hills can be the secret weapon to becoming a stronger, faster, more confident runner.

When running cross-country at Middlebury College, every Tuesday afternoon my coach would have the team run hills repeats up the backside of the Green Mountains. The “hill” workout was always one of the hardest but also the most beneficial. While perhaps, running up and down a mountain several times a week is not on your list of future workouts, here are my top five reasons why running short hill repeats near your house should be.  Hill running….

Strengthens Essential Running Muscles:
In general, hill running does a better job of building up the muscles in your calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes than running on flat ground AND has the added benefit of strengthening your hip flexors and Achilles tendons. Additionally, running uphill forces you to drive your arms harder than usual, so you’ll improve your upper body strength and form.

Improves Endurance and Speed:
Running hills regularly helps the body adapt to stress and hence becomes more efficient at using glycogen. After a couple of weeks of hill workouts, you will notice you are less winded by the hills and likely able to do more repeats with the same amount of effort. Meanwhile the reactive nature of  your muscles working against the hills builds power in your legs to improve speed.

Breaks Up Routine and Prevents Injury:
Part of my coaches reasoning behind having us run up mountainous trails was to break up the monotony of mile upon mile of road running. Additionally, the softer surface helped reduce the pounding on our legs and the intensity of the workout kept our mileage down while keeping us in peak condition.

Teaches Proper Form:
One of the most common mistakes runners make is leaning too far forward and over-striding on the downhill. Instead practice proper form running downhill on the slow recovery “lap”. Focus on keeping your shoulders over your hips and reduce your stride so that your knees aren’t getting pounded. These steps will help conserve your energy for the hill workout, training runs, and races.

Builds Confidence:
Let’s face it, when training and racing in New England you are going to encounter more than your share of hills. Thus, the more you run hills, the less intimidating they’ll seem. Furthermore, your improved strength and technique on the hills will give you the confidence boost you need when racing.

If you you’d like to see how hill running might benefit you, come check out my free hill workout, Tuesday, January 26th at 7pm. Meet at the Westwood High School Track, 200 Nahatan Street, Westwood Ma, and we will run about a mile warm-up to a nearby hill for some guided hill repeats with friends. E-mail with questions.

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Hi, I'm Lauren

I live and run outside of Boston with my husband, 3 active kids, and a very lazy old black lab. I am a seasoned distance runner, certified health coach, yoga teacher and running coach that is obsessed with helping women take a more female-focused, integrated approach to running that leads to increased vitality and wellness.

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