Hills are great for developing good running technique, as you cannot over-stride on a hill and you must have good posture and good turnover when they are completed properly. Never avoid hills! This week the interval session focuses specifically on a set of hill intervals, but I encourage you to choose routes that include hills once in awhile (on your easy runs and longer runs) so that you will learn to master your technique.
Tackling hills improves your efficiency, builds confidence in your fitness and you will always be stronger for the effort. Regardless of one’s fitness level, hills are always challenging. Below are some tips that will help to make even the steepest hills a little easier.
What to do on the uphill?
Think ACCELERATION and quick steps!
Lean slightly into the hill.
Keep the abdominal muscles engaged and your back tall and strong – careful not to hunch in the shoulders. Think “shoulders away from ears.”
Be patient and focus only a few feet in front of you.
Shorten the leg stride with small, quick steps and a quick arm action.
Keep those arms pumping with a strong short quick upswing – “thumbs up” near your shoulders and driving the elbows to just back of your torso. As always, it is the arms that dictate the pace and leg turnover.
Land on the balls of the feet and the second the foot touches the ground, be conscious of lifting the knees as quickly as possible. “Less time on the ground.”
Over-striding is a No-No! The most common mistake people make is thinking it is beneficial to “reach” and over-stride up a hill. Test this out yourself. Try one hill with small quick steps, and the next with a longer stride. Guaranteed, you will discover your effort will be easier and more efficient with a shorter stride and a correspondingly lighter landing.
What to do on the downhill?
Be careful! Downhills are much harder on the body than the uphills!
Let gravity do the work, which means relaxing the arms and legs and allowing the stride to lengthen comfortably.
If the hill is very steep and you find yourself falling too quickly for yourself, then consciously “sit down” – slow yourself down by shortening the stride as you bend the knees and push your butt into a sitting position towards the ground so that your feet land near to under your base of support.
It is important to understand that running downhill is much tougher on the body than running uphill. The impact is greater when you run downhill and many people find it to be demanding on the knees.
Be careful, and make sure you ease up if you are feeling some discomfort.
Enjoy the hill session – you are ready for it!