Depending on the steepness of the hill, running uphill can be a challenge for runners of every level. How you run uphills during a race can make or break your day. Although this topic is in the running efficiency category, we will also spend time examining the different ways to approach hill workouts in your weekly training runs. One component about running efficiently, is being able to deliver more oxygen to the rest of your body. Hard tempo runs and track workouts accomplish the same thing. The downside is if you focus too much of your training on those you will get either burnt out or injured.
Running up steep or Long uphills really works the heart muscle. Specifically it targets to components many people have't heard of. Heart stroke Volume (The amount of blood flowing through the heart at any given moment) and Heart stroke endurance ( The amount of time the heart can go to near max levels before fatigue sets in) We will talk more on this later.
The logic is simple. You will see a greater benefit to your overall training if you try to run harder on the uphills and then
Use the downhills to recover. In a race, we will see a greater benefit in the overall time by attacking the downhills.
Either way we will focus on good arm action. The arms are the most important element while running up hill The arms help drive the body forward. The use of the arms is one of the most important elements when running uphill.
Nowhere is it truer than when going up a huge hill. Unlike running downhill where to arms are out and used to balance your body, the arms are tight to your body. IThis is another portion where it is good to focus. ComHere is one trick. On the forward swing, drive the hands slightly upward. This should be about 6 inches or so forward and upward from your normal swing. This helps lift your knees every so slightly. Better knee lift leads to better speed up the hill.
Again, stronger arm action will help keep your momentum up the hill. It is also important to keep a higher cadence with you arms.
This will help shorten your stride. Depending on the steepness of the hill, your stride will naturally shorten. Still there are people who try to keep the same length of stride as running on flat ground.
The strategy of running up hills is entirely different than running in a race. No matter what type of workout I will try and make it a point not to relax while going up a steep hill. I also run specific "Hill" workouts where the point is to run very hard and near or in oxygen debt. For those runners that have been running for many years, if you can incorporate hill workouts into your training regime you can see substantial improvement to your overall running ability. There is a couple of things at play. Running hills helps with your VO2 max. More importantly it targets your max stroke volume, and if it is a long hill it targets your max stroke endurance. Outside of laying a proper capillary bed to deliver the oxygen, these are the two most important components to running. These aren't common terms and it is important to know what Max stroke volume and Max stroke endurance is. Max Stroke Volume is the max volume of blood the heart can process in a given amount of times. Everyone knows, blood carries oxygen you need to the entire body. If you can deliver more oxygen, then the body can perform at a higher threshold. The heart is essentially another muscle. If you can push this muscle to work at its max capacity then when you are running at a lesser pace, the heart will not expend as much energy. Max stroke endurance is even more important to Long Distance running.
In the hill workout section there are essentially two types of workouts. Short runs up a steep hill for 30-45 seconds. This workout specifically targets max stroke volume. Then the other workout is to find an enormous hill and run to the top. Hopefully, there is a hill big enough to allow a 20-45 minute depending on your level. This long run will obviously help the endurance portion. I really do not consider these workouts to be all that much strain of the legs. Usually you are in an oxygen defect so quickly that you pace is well under your normal threshold pace. In addition, most of your work is using different muscles that are different from you regular or even your tempo runs
On race day, the object is to get to the finish line as quickly as you are capable. Expending a lot of energy on steep hills is counter-productive to that goal. Many runners make the mistake of running trying to keep their target pace on the uphills. This is a mistake. One should maintain effort, not pace while going uphill.
If it is a severe uphill, it may be better to walk then to run up it if you are running slower than 10-minute mile pace. There are many benefits to this strategy of running to effort and not pace. At the top of the hill, you will be more rested relative to all the people around you. This allows you to run immediately at your regular pace. You will instantly find yourself passing fatigued runners. If the uphill turns into a downhill, you will have all this extra energy to attack the downhill. This is where you generate true speed. If you spend a good portion of a downhill recovering from the effort of an uphill, you have wasted a good portion of your run where you can knock off those precious seconds.
The Joy of Hills
In the beginning hills suck. There is no way around it. But as you get those muscles in shape and get used to your rhythm you need to get up the hill at a steady pace. One day you find one of the greatest joys of the week is to get to the top of that large mountain or hill and to be able to see the world below you. Outside of racing, this is one of the highlights of life. Best of all it is free.