The Up Side Of Hills

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By Jeff Galloway

Nothing builds running strength better than hills.

Running inclines forces your muscles to work harder with each step; as you grow stronger, your stride becomes more efficient and your overall speed improves.

Despite the benefits, many newcomers (and old-timers) avoid hills – after all, defying gravity can be physically and mentally uncomfortable. But simple form adjustments and a go-slow approach can reduce the challenges and boost your fitness.

Maintain good form

As you ascend, shorten your stride and keep your feet low to the ground. Try to keep your head, chest, and hips perpendicular to an imaginary horizontal line. On descents, take short, quick, light steps and keep your centre of gravity over your legs.

Start easy

  • For your first hill workout, jog for 10 minutes to warm up, then walk for two minutes.
  • From the bottom of a gentle incline, run up at an easy pace for five seconds, then walk back to the starting point.
  • Run up again for seven seconds.
  • Walk down.
  • Run for 10 seconds, then walk down.
  • If you’re feeling strong, repeat the sequence.
  • Cool down with a 15-minute jog.

Progress slowly

Do the Start Easy (above) workout several times, then ramp it up.

  • Perform 2 x 10 seconds – run up for 10 seconds, then walk down and repeat.
  • Then do 2 x 15, followed by 2 x 20.
  • On your next hill workout, repeat the sequence twice and finish with a 30-second run.

Stick with it

Schedule a hill run every seven to 14 days.

As you get stronger, add time to your segments and/or add an additional hill until you’re running 10 inclines. If you’re training for a hilly race, try to mimic in your workouts the types of hills you’ll encounter in your race. When motivation lags, run hills with a buddy and take turns leading the upward charge.

No hills around?

Mimic hills on a treadmill or elliptical. Parking garages offer sustained climbs, but time your workout for an off-peak day or hour. Bridges and overpasses are also good alternatives. In a pinch, you can run stairs, but ease into it if you aren’t used to them.

 

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