By expending only the amount of energy necessary to reach the top, you'll save energy stores for later in the race when you'll likely need it most.
This advice can also be used for gradual descents. By saving energy going up, you'll be able to let gravity help you down more naturally with a quick turnover and without expending too much effort.
Fix Your Technique
Hill running requires you to adapt your stride to the terrain. That means shorter, quicker strides than your normal running pace.
Karl Melzer, a professional ultrarunner, emphasizes the importance of not overstriding, which can slow your pace and cause you to expend more energy than needed.
"You don't have to lunge and take a long stride," Melzer says. What you want to do instead is concentrate on keeping your feet fast. "You want a faster cadence, just like you would when riding a bicycle. And keep your knees a little higher than normal."
Just remember that a faster cadence doesn't equal a faster heart rate, something that you should remain mindful of as you move to shorter, quicker steps.
Drills to Improve Running Form
Since this running form on hills differs from what you're probably used to, it's a good idea to practice specific drills to improve your technique. Two drills that can improve hill-running form are A's and buttkickers.
A's work on the hip flexors, which will help your foot land out in front of your body just as it would on a hill, and also concentrate on utilizing a quick turnover.
To do the exercise, find a straightaway of about 30 meters. Quickly accelerate each knee up towards your hip using the hip flexor until you reach a 90-degree angle. Once the leg is placed down, immediately follow with the opposite leg. Concentrate on a quick turnover and getting your feet back down to the ground fast. Also remember to keep your back straight and stand tall to ensure good running posture.
Another drill that will help you work on high knees, a quick cadence and using your arms for momentum are buttkickers. But unlike A's, buttkickers will work more on developing the hamstrings and calf muscles.
To do this exercise, bring the heel of your foot toward your butt by contracting the hamstring. The movement should be quick. Stay on your toes and move as fast as possible, alternating legs the same as you would if you were running, for about 20 meters.
Practice these two drills twice per week to improve cadence, high knees and muscular endurance, all of which will help to strengthen your hill-running form.
Remember that hill running is only as difficult as you make it. With a good strategy and the right mental preparation, you can be on your way to mastering any challenge that's put in front of you.
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