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.
(If you're nearing race-day, try these 4 Total-Body Fitness Tests first, to see if you're fit to run.)
More: How to Tackle Hill Training
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 center of gravity over your legs. If you're still struggling, follow this Total-Body Guide to Hill-Running Form.
More: How to Find a Running Form That's Right for You
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.
Do the 'Start Easy' 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.
More: How to Run Faster With Less Work
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. (Here's how to Find the Best Running Partner for You.)
More: 3 Workouts to Increase VO2 max
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