Keys to Efficient Uphill Running

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Efficient running technique can make an enormous difference in running economy on flat terrain, but optimal technique can play an even greater role on hills. Last September I wrote about downhill running; in this issue I will discuss keys for uphill running.

Maintain Turnover: When hitting a hill on the bike, a good cyclist shifts gears to maintain cadence. Runners need to do the same. Maintaining turnover on hills is even more important in running than cycling. Take exaggeratedly short, quick steps and do not try to push off the ground hard. Follow these tips when you hit a hill and you will run faster and more efficiently.

Kick the Ground: Given the additional force our muscles must create to overcome gravity, we cannot afford to lose the additional propulsion provided by elastic recoil. Since you won't land as hard on an uphill, gravity will not help to pre-stretch the tissues of the calf and foot as much. To accomplish a full pre-stretch, drive your knee up the hill quickly and pull your foot back down into the ground powerfully. Feel the spring from the calves when you do this forcefully.

Keep Torso in a Straight Line: Many runners have a tendency to lean forward into a hill. While you definitely do not want to lean back, avoid bending forward from the waist. If you tend to lean over, think about pressing your hips forward as you run. Make sure your shoulders are not well in front of your hips.