A few years back I had the goal of the hill running.
Though I was quite comfortable to run on the plains, I never realized that it would be that challenging.
I had to really gear up…
It was challenging, sweaty, thrilling but super fun.
So, if you are still not able to run on the hills, you will be ready with all the information by the end of this article…
Also, I’ve provided a list of my gears…nothing super fancy…in case you wanted to check them out.
What is hill running?
Hill running is running on the hills or incline. In a real sense, it means running incline uphill or downhill. However, for those who are not close to mountains, can run incline on a treadmill and still reap almost the same benefits. The basic concept behind hill running is to run uphill fast and then recover by jogging or walking down.
So let’s dig into hill running and learn about the benefits…
Gears I use:
I have a running shoe for the plains and for offroading.
To be honest, the offroading one is less used as I live on a plain land and the nearest hill is at least 45 min drive.
So, these shoes are used less as well. Nonetheless, these are good shoes and fit my feet properly.
Full gear list:
- Altra Lone Peak
- A hydration pack. (This is a good one with a wide mouth. You can slip in ice to keep the water cool)
- A cap to protect my head from sun (honestly, to avoid greying of hair :P)
- My fitness band. (I don’t use an expensive one. I tried in the past but no point as I’ve a habit of dropping and breaking things.)
- My earphones.
- Some energy gels.
What are the benefits of hill running?
Hill running can be strenuous, but it does have a lot of benefits.
Improves strength and endurance
When you move uphill, you are moving against gravity.
In a way, this is resistance training.
Resistance training improves endurance and strengthens the muscles
Since you use calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes more while running up, it strengthens these muscles.
It also strengthens the hip flexors and Achilles’ tendons.
Even your upper body gets a better workout when you run incline.
Your arms are in action and you tend to engage your core better when you ascend.
Indeed it is a good amount of workout for your major muscles.
When you run on an incline, you use the same muscles which you use for sprinting.
The strengthening of these muscles makes you better on the flat surface and improves your average speed.
A common hill workout is the Hill Repeats.
Here, you run up the hill approx 100-200 mts by maintaining a constant speed.
You descend down jogging or an easy walk.
You may repeat 2-5 uphill run depending on your fitness.
This workout significantly improves your speed.
More calorie burn
Your heart rate also climbs up when you climb up the strains.
Exactly the same happens when you are running uphill.
After a while, you would feel the intensity of the run.
So the more is the intensity, the more is the calorie burn.
Breaks workout boredom
This I say because of my own experience
I loved the fresh air, the view, and the best was flowers and butterflies 🙂
I have enjoyed every bit of it.
It was so much different than working out in a gym.
So, it is a great way to break your monotonous routine.
Reduced running injuries
Running uphill, you strengthen your leg muscles.
Better muscle strength results in a lower risk of running-related injuries.
Is hill running good for you?
I am sure after reading the benefits you must be all set to run uphill.
It is an amazing workout.
However, in some cases, if you are having any health problems, it is better to avoid it.
Hill running puts tremendous pressure on the knees and increases your heart-rate.
If you have any knee problems, cardiac issues, blood -pressure, it is better to see a doctor before you go for it.
How should I train for hills?
Hill running is a real test of strength and stamina.
Before you start hill running, you need to be a seasoned runner.
Now boosting your stamina is not an overnight job.
All the small steps from eating right to practicing consistently counts.
Here are some points what you include:
- Push yourself to run little longer
- Include cross-training in your exercise regime
- Work on your core
- Practice deep breathing
- Interval training
- Eat-in the right ratio
You have to sweat to build up your strength.
Your hamstring, quadriceps, calves, hip flexors, glutes are the muscles which are used majorly.
Here are some exercises which help to strengthen the muscles.
- Heel Lift
- Butt Kicks
- Hamstring Curl with ball
- Knee Extension
The above exercises are more focused on strengthening your knees which is very important in hill running.
Exercises to improve hill running
Hill running requires a substantial amount of training.
You will be using your calves, quads, hamstring, and glutes a lot.
Also, incline running puts a lot of pressure on the knees.
So, you must focus on strengthening exercises for the knee and your lower body muscles.
Here are some of the strengthening exercises.
It works on almost all the muscles – glutes, hamstring, quads, and hip flexors and helps in knee strengthening.
- Stand straight with your feet shoulder-distance apart.
- Stretch your hands in front of you parallel to the ground. This is the starting position.
- Keep your back straight and bend your knee 90 degrees as if you sit on the chair.
- Make sure your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10-15 times.
- Try the other variations of squats like wall squat or deep squat
Works on the back, hamstring, quadriceps, and glutes.
- Stand on the floor with the feet hip-distance apart. This is the starting position
- Take a big step forward with your right foot.
- Bend your right knee 90 degrees keeping your shin vertical.
- Bring your body close to ground keeping your right thigh parallel to the ground.
- Make sure your right knee does not go beyond the right toe.
- Go back to the starting position.
- Repeat with the left leg.
- Repeat 10 repetitions with each leg.
- To make it intense you can hold weights in your hands.
Works on the hamstring and glutes.
- Lie on the mat on your back.
- Keep your hands by your side.
- Fold your knees pointing upwards. This is the starting position.
- Raise your hips such that your body is in a straight line from knee to shoulder.
- Keep in this position for 30 sec.
- Come back to the starting position
- Repeat it 3-5 times.
- To make it more intense try single leg bridge by raising one foot to 45 degrees
Works on the hamstring
- Stand on the floor with your feet apart
- Stretch the hands in front of you parallel to the ground. This is the starting position
- Fold your right knee and try to touch the right hip with your right heel.
- Go back to the starting position.
- Repeat it with the left leg.
- Repeat 10-15 times with each leg.
Hamstring Curl with ball
Works on the hamstring and quadriceps.
- Lie on the mat on your back.
- Keep your hands by your sides.
- Place your calves to heel on a stability ball.
- Lift your hips such that your body is in a straight line from heel to shoulders. This is the starting position.
- Bend your knees and lift your hips. Pull the heel towards your body pulling the stability ball, until your sole touches the ball.
- Push back the ball and go back to the starting position.
- Repeat it 10-15 times.
Works on the glutes
- Lie on the mat on your sides.
- Keep your knees on top of the other and bent such that your heel, hip, and shoulder are in a straight line. This is the starting position.
- Slowly raise your top knee. The ankles should keep touching each other and your hip should not rotate. Engage your core for better results.
- Come back to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times on each side.
Works on the quadriceps and knee strengthening
- Sit on a chair.
- Raise both legs parallel to the ground, toe pointing up.
- Make your thighs stiff and hold in this position for 5-10 sec, until you feel the stress.
- Go back to the sitting position.
- Repeat it 10-15 times.
Works on the calves.
- Stand on stairs, for the support you can hold on to a wall.
- Keep the ball of your feet on the stair and sink you heel below.
- Raise your heel as high as you can.
- Again sink your heel below and repeat.
- Do it for 10-15 counts.
Is it better to run uphill or flat
Running uphill or running on a plain surface is completely different.
So it will be a little unfair to compare these.
The uphill running is more intense.
Your fitness level needs to be high to do even 1 day a week of uphill running.
Running on the plain surface is comparatively easier.
The effort you need to run at the same speed is lesser on the flat surface.
And if you are just starting off, it is best to start on the plains.
So, it is completely up to you what do want to choose.
How often should you run hills?
Hill running is a high-intensity exercise.
So the frequency of running uphill greatly depends on your fitness level and your running abilities.
If you are an average runner then limit yourself to hill running only once a week.
Now, if you have higher running endurance and used to running long distances, you can try running twice a week.
Even in the best case do not go beyond 3 days of hill running in a week.
In all the cases, try not to run on consecutive days.
If you feel any kind of discomfort when you practice hill running, it is better to stop it.
Disadvantages of hill running
Hill running is a great way to workout.
Now the only issue here is that when you run downhill you need to be extra careful.
There are chances to twist or sprain your ankles while running downhill.
Also, the hill running exerts a lot of pressure on the knees.
So, in case if you have week knee or susceptible to knee pain, it is better to avoid it.