Depending on the steepness of the hill, running uphill can be a challenge for runners of every level. Put hills in during a race ans they 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 are the standard workouts to workout the cardio system. The downside is if you focus too much of your training on those types of workouts you will get either burnt out or injured.
Running up steep and/or long uphills  also works the heart muscle. Specifically it targets two components many people haven’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.

In our workouts, we run harder on the Uphills and relax on the Downhills.

In a race we try to relax on the Uphills and run harder on the down hills.

There is a greater benefit for your training by  running harder on the uphills and
use the downhills to recover. Running uphill puts a greater stress on your cardio-vascular system, and mimics tough speed workouts. Hard speed workouts puts high stress on your legs. This is not the case when running uphills. There is an additional benefit as it increase overall leg strength b y working slightly different muscles.  The goal with sustained uphill running is to increase the time a runner can maintain being in oxygen debt.

In a race, we will see a greater benefit  by attacking the downhills. Running in oxygen debt, takes energy. The goal in a race is to protect our energy reserves. With a solid Hill workout regime, it is possible to get up a normal hill in a race without going into oxygen debt, then turning around and press on the downhills, a place where substantial speed can be generated. This will produce a net gain in time in comparison to runners around you.

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.

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 tighter to your body.  Here 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. Hill workouts are also a good place to practice focus. It is important to try and maintain a rhythm, even though the body may have other ideas.

There are essentially three types of hill workouts.

1, Normal runs that have both up hills and downhills.

2, Long sustained up hills, preferably 800-1500 in elevation change

3, Short runs up a moderate incline.

Go to running with your arms for more information.

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.

Race Day

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 try 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 for slower runners to walk rather than to run. 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 Positive Mental aspects of Hill Running


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.

Hill Running during races For Elite Runners

During a race, generally the goal is to get to the start and finish in the quickest time possible.  This isn’t always true at the Elite Level. Sometimes where you place is more important  than the overall time. For this reason, the way a person runs Hills may, at times, be different then from a runner who is trying to get to the finish line as fast as possible. The general strategy for the race is to get up the hill as relaxed as possible without spending excess energy. This allows you to have more energy for the downhills where you can generate more speed. With this strategy,  you will not have to spend any time recovering from the uphill portion of the run. You will not only make up time but, by running downhill strong you can knock off additional time.
However, if you are in the lead pack, it may be more important to stay with the leaders than to break contact and find yourself running alone.  

More importantly, at the later stages of the race if you are a strong runner, a hill may be the place where it is good to throw a few good surges to knock others out of their comfort zone. 
For stronger runners an easy way to quicken the tempo is to focus on driving the use of the arms. If you quicken the turnover rate of the arms, the turnover rate of the legs will naturally follow. This is an efficient way to throw in a surge without use of too much additional energy.  Try to back out of a surge before you go into true oxygen debt.  This will allow you to throw the second or third surge in sooner. By doing repeated surges, one can know a competitor out of the race by breaking his rhythm.

Close Menu