6 Essential Hill Running Tips to Prepare for a Hilly Race

Use Hills to Build Efficiency

"Hills force you to have good mechanics," says Todd Weisse, cofounder and head coach at the Williamsburg Track Club (Brooklyn and New York City) and a volunteer assistant coach at Columbia University. "You need to be up on your forefoot and your center of gravity has to be under your torso. To run hills efficiently, you have to use your glutes, your quads and your hamstrings. You need to push from the hip and use your entire leg to get up that hill." You should run this way on flat terrain, too. Running hills just makes good form happen more naturally.

More: Good Running Form for Beginners

Embrace the Hills

"For my runners, I call hills 'challenges.' That's all they are," says Joe Whelan, a coach for Team in Training and Kezar Road Runners in San Francisco, where, as he says, "hills happen." His recommendation: "Embrace them instead of avoiding them. You can make something that might be your weakness your strength by not avoiding it." 

More: 4 Essential Strength Moves for Runners

Train for the Downhills, Too

Watch that you don't lean back on the downhills, Whelan says. When you do that, you're braking and reducing your speed. "And it puts a large amount of pressure on the joints and quads," he says. "Instead, let the hill take you down it." Your form should really look the same no matter what terrain you're running on, Weisse says. Can't get the hang of it? Try this tip from Kastor: "Try to run very quietly. This will minimize the impact forces of your feet striking the ground."

Let the Downhill Make You Faster

"Imagine you're on a bicycle, and use the downhill to gain momentum on an uphill to come. If you use the ground forces correctly, you can have a little momentum up that hill," Weisse says. 

More: Downhill Running Demystified

Know Where to Pass and Be Passed

"If you can climb like a mountain goat, then redline your heart rate going up the hills because the speedsters are going to come after you on the descent," Kastor says. "I always try to make back the time that I lost on the uphills, and for some, it's the other way around. Pick the best [hill-running] strategy for you and your physical and mental strengths."

More: 7 Hill Running Workouts That Increase Power

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About the Author

Marty Munson

Marty Munson is a USAT Level 1 triathlon coach. Her writing has appeared in Health, Prevention, Marie Claire, Shape.com and RealAge.com. Find more triathlon tips and strategies from her and other experts in the field at trieverything.wordpress.com.

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