Have A Love-Hate Relationship With Uphill Running?
Running uphill is
a pain, but that’s why we love it. The hot
ache in our legs after a hill climb reminds us that with regular training and a
little tough love, we can run better.
By putting these pro tips into action, you can make
your uphill running battle less daunting, build up speed and endurance, strengthen your
heart and earn killer thighs. #lovetheburn
Pre-run dynamic (active) stretches and a 10 - 15 minute session
of gentle jogging is ideal to prep your muscles for the uphill climb.
Gradually increasing the intensity of your workout allows
your muscles to loosen up and lubricates your joints, so you can safely transition
to more strenuous activity.
Skip the running
As keen as you are to build momentum, powering up the hill
with full force (a running start) is a common beginner’s mistake, leaving you
quickly breathless and feeling flat like a pancake.
Many competitive runners hold back until the last third of
the hill before unleashing an extra kick of energy to accelerate over the peak,
and apply that forward momentum into their downhill performance.
Lean naturally, not
Although your instinct is to lean into the hill, you should
stick to the upright, proper running
form you use on flat running surfaces – keeping head, shoulders, hips and
ankles in alignment.
The forward lean will occur naturally from your ankles (not
waist) and be slight (not dramatic). Aim to run perpendicular to the slope of
terrain and avoid overextending from the torso as this will cause tension in
your shoulders and hips as well as stress to your lower back.
A proper running posture will activate your hip flexor muscles fully and encourage your glutes to do their share of the heavy lifting, so your legs can churn away with less effort.
Breathe better with proper running form
Maintain a straight body alignment with your chest out and
eyes forward to breathe efficiently and ‘open’ your lungs. Looking at your feet
can break your proper running form, causing you to hunch and restrict your airway
and lung capacity.
Being aware of proper breathing technique will help prevent huffing and puffing. The goal is to maintain a consistent breathing rate to use your energy efficiently and postpone fatigue.
Drive forward with your
Don’t underestimate your arms. Your arms and legs naturally
move in sync, so a powerful back-forward arm swing will help pump your legs
and promote a faster turnover to propel you uphill.
Keep your arms close to your body with elbows at a 90-degree
angle, facing backwards rather than out to the sides to streamline your
Lift your knees
Lifting your knees on inclines in a smooth upward and
forward motion will help you maintain proper running form and in particular,
allow your hip muscles to put more power into your stride.
Your motion will be naturally guided by the gradient of the hill - the sharper the incline, the higher the knee lift required to accommodate the upward movement.
Use short, quick strides
Don’t force your body to maintain the stride length used
during flat running. Short strides uphill allow you to sustain your energy on
the climb as opposed to a choppy, overextended stride that forces you to ‘pull’
your body forward.
Ideally, your feet should contact the ground
directly beneath your body. Short
strides will increase your stride frequency and help keep you light and
quick on your feet.
Maintain a controlled,
Since you’re fighting gravity, your speed running uphill
will be naturally slower than on flat surfaces and dictated by the severity of
Rather than focusing on maintaining the same speed as flat
running, focus on maintaining the same effort,
even as the gradient of the hill changes. Your breathing rate can act as a
guide – if it’s rapid and shallow, take the pace down a notch.
Use downhill for
Woo! You’ve made it to the crest, you’re sweating like an
ice cream cone on a summer’s day and your legs feel like lead.
Although downhill running increases impact stresses (particularly
on your quad muscles), with gravity now working in your favour you can practice
active recovery while there’s less energy demand on your heart and muscles.
As long as you’re not training for race day speeds, a light
jog or walk down the hill is ideal to regain your breath and conserve energy.
Increase the incline
Baby steps! With any workout, you need to give your body the
opportunity to adapt to prevent injury and acclimatise to new stresses on your
muscles, particularly when they’re activated in an uncommon way.
inclines first off and gradually overcome steeper gradients overtime. This slow and steady progression may also alleviate mental barriers
to your performance – breaking up your running goals into doable steps and keeping
your inner procrastination monkey under wraps.
Practice on stairs
Running stairs one step at a time can help you practice
uphill running technique as the limited surface on each step forces your body
to maintain a shorter stride and encourages a light, quick pace.
Stair climbs mirror the conditions your body will endure when
uphill running in terms of your breathing and heart rate. Alike with other aerobic
exercise, it’ll train your body to use oxygen more efficiently and allow you to
practice breath control.
Mix it up
Once you've built up confidence, switch up your routine by choosing hills of varied inclines
and distances to challenge your muscles and keep your mind stimulated.
Occasionally trade in the concrete jungle for natural trails if you’re not afraid to get dirty or adjust the incline on your treadmill to get the basic benefits of uphill running in your own home or local gym.