By: Jeremy Neisser
Hill running is a challenging activity that tests your athleticism and endurance. However, it’s also super fun and rewarding.
If you’re interested in hill running but don’t know where to start, you’re in for a treat! In the following article, you’ll find an answer to all the questions you might have.
The Benefits Of Hill Running
It goes without saying that hill running has a lot of physical benefits. However, it has a lot of mental benefits as well. Let's have a quick look at some of these benefits.
Enhances the Body's Endurance
Resistance training is designed to challenge your body limits to improve your overall strength and agility, such as running on sand.
When you run uphill, you're going against gravity. This puts extra pressure on different muscle groups, such as the calves, glutes, quads, and hamstrings, helping them build more muscles.
Uses Variety of Muscle Groups
Running on hills gives you a full-body workout. As your upper and lower body muscles work to propel you up the hill, it will help you become more powerful and coordinated in your running.
Improves Balance & Coordination
Hill training helps improve balance and coordination as it requires you to navigate small changes in terrain or different levels of incline. The core and legs muscles have to work together to keep you stable while running.
Develops Mental Toughness
It takes a lot of mental toughness and fortitude to remain focused on a hill session. When all your body is working hard, it's easy to lose focus or give up. But by pushing through the pain and persevering, you can develop the mental strength and confidence to run through any challenging situation.
Improves Cardiovascular System
Finally, running hills is a great way to improve cardiovascular health. The incline and resistance of rolling hills will increase your heart rate, which studies have shown that strengthens the heart muscle and improves overall cardiovascular functioning. It also increases lung capacity as you'll require more oxygen to power your body up the hill.
Increase Your Speed
Since sprinting recruits more gluts and hamstrings, you'll be increasing your overall speed by training these muscle groups by running uphill.
You'll also improve your Achilles tendons and hip flexors, which are also essential for sprint running.
Burns More Calories than Flat Running
Your lower body isn't the only thing that works hard during the intense hill run. In fact, your heart rate increases significantly while running uphill.
This makes it an excellent cardio exercise, as it burns more calories and improves your lung performance.
Adds a Variety to Your Workout Routine
If you're bored with the gym's monotony, running uphill is also super rewarding mentally.
In addition to the regular mental benefits of exercising, you'll enjoy some fresh air as well as a perfect view.
Improves turnover of feet, a faster cadence (important for running faster)
When done properly, a steep hill can help you improve your turnover of feet and gain a faster cadence. This is important for running faster because it helps you engage more muscle groups at once. Not only will this increase your speed but also reduce the risk of injuries associated with overuse or fatigue.
When Should You Include Hills in Your Training?
A good option is to incorporate hills, in lieu of speed work. Incorporating hills into your runs build endurance while also preparing you for speed work and rapid changes in pace, making it a key component of any runner's training regimen.
If your goal is to run to lose weight, hills will burn more calories than running on flat ground.
Gear That You Need to Use While Hill Running
Now that you know the benefits that you’re going to enjoy while you run hills, it’s time to gear up for the challenge.
First things first, you need good running shoes that are designed for offroading. I recommend ASICS Gel-Kahana 8 Trail Runner for males and females.
You’ll also need a good hydration pack with a mouth large enough to slip some ice into the water to keep it cool.
Since you’re most likely going in the morning, you have to make sure that you protect yourself from the sun. In my experience, a good running cap with some SPF 60 sunscreen will do.
You can also use some photochromic running sunglasses if the sun rays obstruct your vision. After that, you only need your fitness tracker as well as earphones, and you’re ready to go!
Hill Running Tips:
Hill Sprints - What Are They And Do They work?
Running up arunn hill provides several advantages that other sprinting exercises don't: a higher metabolism-driven afterburn, improved form, more resistance to tiring out, increased stroke volume (more blood pumped to the muscles), stronger lower body muscles, and development of speed in bursts without as much wear and tear.
Not to mention, hill sprints provide distance runners the excitement of running full-throttle – without the threat of harm since uphill running puts less tension and pressure on the joints and muscles than level or downhill running.
Hill sprints are a type of workout that is similar to strides. You can include them in your training on easier days, and you will see significant benefits without too much fatigue or wear and tear on your body.
Include hill sprints in your routine slowly by starting with 1-2 repeats of 8 seconds uphill once or twice per week, along with an easy run. Try to do this on a 5-10% incline, but any hill where you have to huff and puff without changing your form is fine.
Let your body adjust for a week or two, and then increase the number of repetitions as needed. Hill sprints are good for runners at all levels and can be done at any point during training.
Hill Repeats - - What Are They And Do They work?
Tracks can be repetitive and even boring, so ditch the track for hill repeats instead. By doing this, you'll not only recruit your fast twitch muscle fibers to make you run faster, but you'll also avoid the speed work's risk of injury. Hill repeats are ideal because they rely on perceived effort rather than pace; plus, the duration and intensity can be easily adjusted based on your needs and goals.
After a moderate 5-20 minute warm-up jog, do some dynamic stretches and drills such as high knees, butt kicks, and skips. Then, run 6-8 x 1 minute hard uphill (Your breathing should be difficult but not so much that you can't continue after a few repeats) and recover with a slow jog back down (1-2 minutes). Finally, end with a light 5-20 minute jog followed by foam rolling to relieve muscle tension.
Uphill Progression Run - What Are They And Do They work?
If you have had an unfortunate race that ends with an uphill, I feel bad for you. We have all been there and the race director who thought that was a good idea was wrong, terribly wrong.
Uphill progression runs not only show you how to use your muscles for power on an incline, but also how to keep pushing when you're tired. Progression runs of any kind are excellent for teaching runners pacing during a race - something that's often difficult to do if you've gone out too fast in the past, something every runner has done at least once in their runner career.
If you're a marathoner, this type of work is beneficial to help improve your running. Learning to engage your fast twitch muscles when tired will make the end of any race feel easier and increase your chances at getting that personal record (PR) you've been training so hard for
This is something that I have seen more times than I prefer to count. Poor form running hills. A proper running form is easy if you are aware of your technique. One thing that I have done was film myself (actually I had my wife film me while I ran) which allowed me to see what my form looked like going up a hill and down.
Here are a few tips to help with proper hill running form:
Ensure that your hips, chest, and head are perpendicular to an imaginary horizontal line.
While going uphill and downhill, keep your body upright. When going up the hill, slightly lean from the hips in, but don't stoop.
Keep your head and chest up, eyes gazing directly ahead of you on the ground about 10-20 feet in front. Do not stare at your feet or look too far up the hill.
Below are the posture guidelines you should follow to ensure deep and efficient breathing:
- Engage your core muscles
- Keep your back straight
- Hold your head up
For your arms, keep them bent at a 90-degree angle. They should be moving back-and-forth rotation, not a side-to-side movement.
The best way to generate momentum when running uphill is by swinging your arms. Swing your elbows backward. This might seem exaggerated, but it works!
As you run up the hill, take shorter strides instead of reaching your leg out further as if trying to power through. Keep your feet low to the ground at all times for more stability and an upright posture.
Once you clear the hill, you should be breathing heavily and have slightly fatigued legs. Then, all you need to do is turn around head back down to the starting point. But beware--the downhill is not something to take lightly.
Run too hard or with bad form on the way down, and it'll come back to bite you later in pain. Thanks to the constant braking effect while going downhill, this section of the training puts a lot more pressure on your feet and knees than usual.
Here’s how to build proper downhill running form.
1. Avoid overstriding by letting gravity pull you down, which will in turn help speed up your pace.
2. Instead of taking long strides, try shorter and quicker steps – this will also increase your stride rate.
3. Pay attention to how you land - focus on landing on your forefoot instead of heel first. Landing on the heels creates a braking effect that slows you down and can jar your entire body
4 . Try to land as light as possible, preferably on the mid-to forefoot area; do not pound the ground
5.During downhill running, keep a consistent stride turnover and effort throughout the rest of your workout so that one part doesn't feel too difficult
5 Workouts To Improve Your Hill Running Performance
As you can see, running hills requires a lot of training, so you can keep up with its demands. To improve your overall performance and avoid injuries, you need to do at least 5 to 10 minutes of warm-up before going uphill.
Here are some other exercises that you can do to improve your general performance on hills:
1. Short Hills
To complete a short hill sprint, efficiently and effectively use these tips:
-The hill should be a maximum of 200 feet
-It should take you 30 seconds or less to run up the hill
-The grade should have an incline between 5-15%
Remember that the source of your energy is anaerobic, so make sure you're exerting maximal effort (a 9 or 10 on the rate of perceived exertion scale)
The short hill workout, also called explosive hill sprints, uses all three types of muscle fiber. They also increase the amount of blood your heart can pump with each stroke—making your cardiovascular system more efficient. This hill workout is ideal for runners looking to develop explosive strength that’s key to running short distances or finishing strong in middle-distance running.
2. Long Hill Repeats
While short hills focus on speed and power, long hill repeats build your aerobic endurance. On these runs, resist the urge to go fast--focus on building up your stamina instead.
To run up a long hill, your body needs to recruit both slow-twitch and intermediate fibers.
This type of workout can help you become more economic in your running, as well as improve your lactate turn point.
By building aerobic and muscular endurance—key for any runner aiming at longer distances such race half marathons or full marathons—these types of workouts are crucial in training.
3. Long Hill Runs
This type of hill run is the most popular option for runners looking to improve their skills and overall fitness. When it comes to distance, choose what feels right for you and will help you achieve your training goals. But don't overdo it! The average longrun hill distance tends to be between three miles and 10 miles.
If you are looking to train your slow-twitch fibers, which peak at lower intensity levels and over longer periods of time, then this hill workout is perfect for you. It will also help increase ankle flexibility, improving stride length and frequency.
4. Downhill Running
The downhill hill workouts section can help you improve your running ability if used correctly. This type of run should be done at a controlled pace, starting out slow and gradually building up speed as you go. The key is to find the balance between control and power.
Downhill running will help improve your leg muscles strength and power allowing for more efficient strides while running. It will also increase your speed capabilities, which will come in handy during races.
5. Hill Bounding
If you want to get stronger which leads to a faster running speed, then hill bounding is the workout for you. It will improve your form and increase your strength without having to lift weights.
Hill bounding will help strengthen your leg muscles, which in turn boosts speed, power, and endurance. It also builds a great base that you can use to either increase mileage or intensity during other runs.
How Can You Simulate A Steep Hill At Home?
You can easily simulate hill repeats by using your treadmill's incline feature. While it might be a bit boring, it's a perfect way to maintain your form on busy days.
First, you need to perform a 5 to 10-minute warm-up before the exercise to avoid injuries. After that, you can hop on the treadmill.
If you're going to run, you should maintain an incline of 5 to 6%. However, if you're going to walk, you should notch it up to 10%. A treadmill will give you the perk of creating patterns of inclination to suit your style perfectly.
To simulate going downhill, all you have to do is bring the treadmill back to 0% inclination. Many treadmills have built-in programs that provide hill training workouts that simulate running up hills and downhills.
How Often Should You Go Hill Running?
As you already know, running hills is a pretty intense and demanding exercise, that's why you need to make sure that you do it with moderation.
The answer to this question depends mainly on your physical state and level of endurance. Ideally, a new hill runner should do it as much as once a week.
Once you build enough stamina and fitness level, you can go for 2 to 3 times a week.
However, you should always give yourself at least 2 days off between each hill run, so you can go higher than 3 times a week.
With that said, you now have a better idea about hill running and everything you need to know before starting it.
Hill running is an excellent exercise that has a lot of benefits on your body and mind. Using this guide, you’ll be able to master it in no time!
Hi, Jeremy Here,
I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journey. About Jeremy.
I have run over 250 races including the California International Marathon, Clarksburg Country Run, and various other 5K & 10K races throughout the United States. I am a former Athletics department employee at University of the Pacific and Shoe Consultant with Dicks Sporting Goods