How to Run Hills Properly

Man running up grassy hillside
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If you're one of those runners who dreads running hills, it may be because you're not using the right hill running techniques. Follow these steps for proper hill running and you may actually look forward to inclines during your runs.

Six Steps for Hill Running

  1. Don't start thinking that you want to attack the hill. The key to running hills properly is to maintain your effort level (which translates into a slower pace on the uphill), so you don't waste energy and end up out of breath at the top of the hill (that's a common mistake among runners).
  2. As you approach an uphill, make sure you have good running form. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle and should be moving forward and back (rotating at the shoulder), not side to side.
  3. Your back should be straight and erect. You can lean in very slightly from the hips, but make sure you're not hunched over.
  4. Concentrate on swinging your arms lower and shorter. By keeping your arm swing lower and quicker, your legs will stay lower to the ground resulting in a short, quick stride.
  5. As you reach the top of the hill, you can begin your normal stride again. If you ran the hill properly, you'd be able to pass runners who wasted too much energy on the hill.
  6. The best way to run downhill is to lean forward slightly and take short quick strides. Don't lean back and try to brake yourself. Try to keep your shoulders just slightly in front of you and your hips under you. Although it's tempting to overstride, avoid taking huge leaping steps to reduce the pounding on your legs.

Hill Repeats

Once you've perfected your technique, you can build your strength and improve your speed and confidence by running hill repeats. This workout uses a hill of 100 to 200 meters long (300 to 600 feet or one to three city blocks). You'll run it with good form at your 5K pace uphill, then recover running or walking downhill. With two to three repeats for beginners and six to 10 repeats for advanced runners, you'll build your hill stamina.

Of course, one of the ways to run hills without going outside is to use a treadmill. Using the incline feature of a treadmill can simulate hills and give you the chance to work on your hill running form. Some treadmills also feature a decline setting to simulate running downhill. If you are preparing for a hilly race, it's best to practice both your uphill and downhill running form.

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