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Running Hills


Running hills is an important part of your training, because it strengthens your legs and ankles, increases your aerobic and anaerobic capacity, and increases your tolerance for lactic acid. When you run hills, you're not only moving your body laterally, as you do on level ground, but you're moving your body against gravity. Thus, hills offer resistance training that helps strengthen your body.

Four Phases to Hill Running

There are four phases to running hills.
bulletYou can't run the hill and you walk it.
bulletYou run the hill at a very slow jog.
bulletYou run the hill at a faster pace but slower than your normal pace.
bulletYou run the hill at your normal pace.

If you're not used to hills and you think you'll never get out of phase 1, don't get discouraged. Just be patient and let your body work itself through the four phases. The time will come when you'll be in phase 4, and you'll run the hills without even thinking about them as hills.

Hills, Stairs, Use What You Have

Many routes used for LSD have hills, and you can use those hills for hill training. You can increase your pace up or down the hill as a fartlek and then continue your run at your LSD pace, or you can stop and run intervals up and down the hill for a few minutes. If you don't have hills in your area, try running stairs or using a tread mill with a steeper incline.

Don't Overdo a Good Thing

Because of the higher stress from running hills, don't do heavy hill training more often than once or twice a week. The rest of the week when you encounter hills during your run, consider the hills as LSD training and run them at your normal (or slower) pace and then continue your run.

You Look Different When You Run Hills

When running hills, you'll use a different running form than you do on level ground. Take smaller steps.  Pump your arms and raise your knees higher to get more energy into your running. Some web sites recommend that you lean backwards when going up hills (I think the goal is to be perpendicular to the road), but I've found that the opposite works best for me. I lean into the hill such that my body remains vertical (I do the same when I'm hiking),  and I run more on
my toes while going up a steep hill. I take deeper breaths to get more oxygen. When I run down hills, the web sites and I agree that you can lean forward to get more speed. This time, gravity is your friend, and you can get increased speed with less effort. However, be careful, because if you lean too far forward, you'll lose your balance and fall. When going downhill, I take longer strides to accommodate the faster pace. Unless you've trained for running with longer strides, be careful because using a longer than normal stride increases the risk of shin splints or other injury.

That Big Hill is my Buddy

Hills can be your friend, so welcome opportunities to master them! There was a large hill near my home in Massachusetts. The elevation change to the top was about 500 feet, and the distance to the top was about 1/4 mile. When I first moved there, I had to walk up the hill. However, after a while, I found I could jog up the hill. Then I found I could run up the hill at my normal pace. And then I found that I was going up the hill and not even thinking about it. That hill had become my friend. I was glad for all of the hill training I received in hilly Massachusetts, because when I ran the Foxboro Marathon, the route was a circle that included a big hill like the one near my home, and to complete the marathon I had to traverse that hill three times.

Here are links for learning about hill training and the advantages you'll receive in your running and racing.

bullet http://www.internetfitness.com/articles/running_hillrunning.htm

bullet http://www.active.com/story.cfm?story_id=8855

bullet http://www.howtobefit.com/hillrunning.htm

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