Ask any runner and they will tell you that they have a love-hate relationship with hills. Hate, obviously, because they are hard and they make you feel exhausted and mess with your goals in a race. Love, because when they are over, they make you feel like superman (or woman). There is nothing climbing a huge hill, looking back at it and giving yourself a pat on the back for the accomplishment.
But when it comes to running hills, it takes some practice and a certain form of art so that you don’t feel like you are going to die halfway through.
Run with your head up, looking at the top of the hill — where you want to go. If you stare at the ground or a little bit in front of you, the hill will feel way more ginormous than it needs to.
Focus on moving your arms. I’ve heard recommendations that you should move your arms like you are pulling a rope in front of you to help you get to the top (like a tow rope). Also focus on lifting your feet and depending on the steepness of the hill, shifting your weight to the balls of your feet to give you better acceleration.
Lastly, make sure you are focusing on your breathing and keeping a steady rhythm. I know when my breathing gets off (aka I start panicking and then it becomes shorter and shorter), my pace suffers and the hill feels way harder to conquer!
Think of a mantra. Tell yourself a funny story. Whatever it is, focus your mind on something amazing so that it’s not being a Negative Nancy and telling yourself that you need to walk. In Orangetheory, we’ll do hills on the treadmill (“Runners, bring it up to a 10 incline” <– worst sentence ever) and it’s all about what I can do mentally to not hit the pace decrease button.
Sometimes, instead of a mantra, it works for me to tell myself how awesome it’s going to make me feel and how strong I will be once I finish the climb. And once you’ve done a hard hill and know the feeling that it brings, you know this is true so it’s usually the best motivation.
I think the most important thing about hills is: don’t be scared of them! Hill training can be your best friend as it has a number of benefits. Not only does it make running hills much easier, but it also makes you a stronger runner overall. Hill repeats are a form of sprints, and a twofer one deal! You not only get to push your legs to run faster paces, but you do it while conquering elevation… which will pay off hugely for future races.
After running the Hill Country Marathon, I’ve vowed to become better at running hills. Of not being scared of them… and making them a big part of my training plan. Those were probably the hardest hills in my life, and even my hill training at Orangetheory wasn’t enough to make them feel a little better.
The more you run hills, the better you’ll be at it, and that also means you’ll be a faster/better runner. So feed that love-hate relationship… it’s all apart of loving the run. 🙂
What do you have a love-hate relationship with? I also have a love-hate relationship with burpees… those things.
What’s a favorite mantra/saying that you use to get through the tough parts of a race, life, anything?
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