About six years ago, before I had my first baby and had all the time in the world, I made it my mission to run a local two-hour mountain trail every Saturday morning during the summer. Besides the memory of it being very hot, a smile comes to my face when I think back on that summer. And the reason is because that is the strongest and fastest I’ve ever felt in my running career. I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I ran this trail route and had the best time. I was incredibly sore for the next few days, but I felt stronger just after the one run. When I had recovered fully, I then went up North a few hours where it is quite hilly and ran a very hilly course two days in a row. I was reminded yet again at how important hill training is and why everyone should try to incorporate into their running.
I know a lot of people shy away from hill training, but that is a huge mistake. Hills make you stronger, faster, and less prone to injury. Specifically, training on hills improves leg-muscle strength, quickens your stride, expands stride length, develops your cardiovascular system, enhances your running economy and can even protect your leg muscles against soreness. You don’t need to do a two-hour trail run every weekend to reap the benefits – any hill is better than no hill! In fact, if you are new to hill running or haven’t done it in a while, it’s best to start small (in both incline and length) and slowly increase your efforts. In as little as six weeks of regular hill training you can expect a significant improvement in your muscle power and speed.
Hill training does not have to be difficult or exhausting. In fact, if it is, there is likely something you can do to fix that. If you are breathing too rapidly or have tight leg muscles, you are likely over-striding. If your lower back is sore or tight, you are probably leaning too far forward. If you have tight or sore hamstrings or shins, you could be over-striding on the downhill, while a loss of rhythm or flailing arms means you are going downhill too fast.
What other excuses do you have for not incorporating hill running into your training? Do you live in a flat-as-a-pancake part of the world? So do I, but I simply hop in my car and drive 10 minutes to a hill or mountain. If there is no hill anywhere in sight, you can use a treadmill to do hill training. There is a solution for everything, and if it’s something that will make you stronger, faster, and less prone to injury, why not try to make it a regular part of your training?