Once you get to be more proficient on hills, you'll become aware of something revolutionary: hill training is fun. While hard work, hill training makes you realize that your body is powerful and resilient, capable of literally overcoming an obstacle set before it.
Hillwork also injects some excitement into your run, since flat surfaces can grow monotonous.
The following tips will help ensure that hill training stays both fun and focused.
Vary the distances. Run short hills (~30 seconds to run, with an incline of 5-15% gradient), medium hills (~30-90 seconds to run), and long hills (more than 90 seconds). On a short hill, your energy source will be anaerobic (without oxygen); as such, always allow your body proper recovery (a walk down the hill, for example). Running a medium hill is both aerobic and anaerobic, and allows you the chance to develop your lactic acid tolerance. (Critical in improving endurance). Running a long hill is mainly aerobic. Here, the idea is to exert moderate to hard effort - don't be too concerned about your speed.
Be bouncy. Good form makes hillwork safer and more satisfying. When running up a hill, the goal is to be as "bouncy" as possible. You want to use a slightly higher knee-lift than you would when running a flat surface. You should push upwards with your toes and flex your ankles, then land on the front part of your foot. Focus on your legs - your arms, neck, and shoulders should be free of tension. Arms should be held at a 90 degree angle.
Eyes ahead. The impulse to look at your feet when scaling a hill (especially a long one) can be overpowering - why do you want to know how much more hill lies ahead of you? Keeping your eyes straight ahead, however, helps you maintain proper form and avoid straining your neck.
Inspire yourself. As most runners know, getting your brain in the game is often half the battle. If you tell yourself "I can't do this" or "this run will be awful," chances are you're going to have a bad run. When it comes to hill running, positive self-talk can be a big motivator. Instead of dwelling on what could possibly go "wrong" when you climb the hill, remind yourself that you have the strength and determination to dominate your run. Hill, schmill.
Jersey City Running Examiner Lauren Leatherman is a writer and runner living in Jersey City, New Jersey. Lauren holds an MFA in Creative Writing from NYU and has published articles and essays about fitness, nutrition, and motivation for runners. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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