Running outside almost year-round is one of the perks of living in Southeastern NC but living near the beach means that we tend to find ourselves running at sea-level with few changes in elevation. Not every race you’ll compete in will be as flat as the roads around Wilmington, but should I really do hill training?
The simple answer is YES! Hill training is another way to challenge the different systems of your body through running. Not only does it add some interest to the landscape of your runs, but hill runs can also:
Increase muscular strength
Increases mental stamina
Hill running has two main components to it: the uphill and the downhill. Each are equally important for success, but also work different muscle groups and systems. Both can also cause injury if done incorrectly. It’s just as important to do the PRE-hab side of training as it is to do the running itself. Read on for some more information regarding the different phases of hill training, a hill training workout, and some more information about how our Run Strong groups can help you prepare for all your runs.
Just When You Think You’ve Peaked
The uphill portion of the run is by far the hardest aerobically. Lifting the legs, leaning forward at the ankle, and focusing on the push off to propel you both forward and up the incline each creates its own challenges. For best running form up hill you should focus on:
· Taking smaller and more frequent strides
· Eyes on the top of the hill
· More plantar flexion
· Open tall chest
· Using the arms more
Running up hill may challenge you more in some ways, but it also decrease your impact forces. Runners who struggle with hills tend to be too far upright, leaning too far into the hill, not lifting their legs, looking at their feet, and/or feel like they’re just plodding up the hill.
To get the most out of your uphill training, the goal should be to strengthen hip flexors, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves as well as adjust the angle to the ground to improve the climbing ability.
It’s All Downhill from Here is Only Good to Hear During a Run
Coming down the backside should be some of the most fun part of your run. Think joyfully laughing as you “fall” down the hill. This will allow you to increase the turnover of your stride and pick up the pace as you head into the flat or next hill. The biggest mistake most runners make in hill training and during races is to use downhills as recovery.
The danger in this portion of the run is the increase in overall impact on the lower body. Runners will also notice that the foot strike moves from the toe in the uphill climb closer to the heel in the downhill stride. This increases the risk of injury, so runners should try to focus on landing more toward the ball of the foot to spring forward and allow the foot to be under you with each fall. Allow the arms to be more open and the body to rotate more during the downhill portion of the run.
The goal for training downhills should be to maintain control without resisting gravity that causes a loss of momentum.
Strength to Improve Hill Running
As with all forms of endurance training, the strength component is equally necessary to hit your goals. Resistance training specific to hill training can:
Improve run economy
Improve leg strength to propel up a hill
Create less muscle fatigue after finishing hill for a stronger race finish
Maintain consistent and stronger run technique going uphill
Exercises to Improve the Uphill Climb
Exercises to Improve the Downhill Slide
Ups and Downs
Hill running should be thought of us a paired event. You can’t just do the up or the down, but instead need to train them both equally in order to create an EVEN EFFORT performance. The energy expended on the uphill should only be slightly more than that used on the downhill to maintain balance and consistency. Not sure if you’re running balanced? Schedule a Gait or Clinical Run Analysis or sign-up for our Run Strong Group!
CTG RUN STRONG
Run Strong is a periodized program developed weekly to supplement your endurance training and ultimately change your approach to achieving higher levels of performance within triathlon and cycling training. This 2 day/week program will include exercises to develop strength, power, speed and hypertrophy at the appropriate time of the year to optimize performance. Prehab, injury reduction, and corrective exercises/ drills are a large emphasis to keep you training and at the highest level.
Hill Run Workout
Try one of the different hill runs below:
Training Day 1
Find a gradually increasing stretch of road or trail (5-6 minutes)
· Repeats on this stretch (up and downhill) x5
Training Day 2
Bleachers (stair climbing) (time based or sets based )
· 5 x (3 minutes of ascending/ descending bleachers + 1/4 mile steady on track)
Training Day 3
Parking garage stairs
· 3 x (climb/ descend 5 floors + easy jog around top floor)
· 1 minute rest between sets
· repeat above x 4
Don’t want to go it alone? Check out Without Limits Monday Hill Runs.
Best Places in Wilmington for Hill Runs
Near CFCC downtown – Water Street going up Walnut, Red Cross, or Hanover