Ultimate Guide to Hill Training: All About Running Hills
It’s possible that hill training might be the secret to achieving your goal. Almost every runner can benefit from hill training, no matter what they’re working towards. Hill training helps build speed, prevent injuries, increase power, and boost mental strength. Next time you see a hill, run towards it with confidence!
Imagine you’re running a race and you turn a corner to find *gasp* a hill! What is your initial thought? Are you immediately discouraged and filled with dread? Does your confidence tank? Or, do you focus in on the hill with courage knowing you can tackle it and continue running?
If you identify with the former, it’s time to start adding more hills to your running routine. In addition to boosting our confidence and mental strength, running hills has a multitude of benefits that can take our running to the next level.
Below we discuss who should run hills, the benefits, things to keep in mind, and how to add hills into your training.
Who Is Hill Training For?
First and foremost, hill training is for everybody. No matter your running history, current level, or goals, hills can be a part of your regular routine. You could be:
- Base building
- Training for a hilly race or trail run
- Working on speed
- Building endurance
- Injury prone
- Sharpening your mental strength
- Looking to mix things up
…and hills are still beneficial! Because hills can be run both aerobically and anaerobically, you can approach them based on you, your current fitness, and goals. For example, a newer runner would likely aim to maintain an easy and aerobic effort while ascending a hill, while it’s possible a more experienced runner has a formal hill workout.
What Are the Benefits of Hill Training?
Including hills in your regular running routine comes with many benefits. You don’t need to be training for a hilly race or trail run to run hills. Instead, any runner, despite their goal, can benefit from running hills. Some perks of hill training include:
- Increasing lower body power and strength. Running hills regularly helps build both muscular and aerobic systems, like VO2 and lactate threshold.
- Aiding with injury prevention. While running uphill is challenging, there is less impact than running on flat roads and especially running downhill. Because of this, uphill running is easier on your connective tissues and joints.
- Encouraging proper running form and increasing cadence. It’s more difficult to over-stride and run with poor form while running uphill.
- Building speed. Running hills requires strength and, as mentioned above, strengthens the muscular and cardiovascular systems. With more strength, better form and efficiency, and a higher cadence, your speed will likely increase.
- Boosting mental confidence. Hill training on a regular basis will make ascending a hill during a race seem like a piece of cake!
- Keeping things fun. Running hills is mentally engaging and holds your focus. If you feel like your current training is monotonous, change your route up and add in some hills to keep things spicy.
What Should I Keep in Mind While Running Hills?
First and foremost, your focus while ascending a hill should always be effort, not pace. Whether you’re completing a hard hill workout or simply running on rolling hills during an easy or recovery run, running uphill is more challenging. Because of this and running against gravity, pace will naturally slow.
The most important thing is that you’re staying true to the purpose of your run. Meaning, if your run is easy or recovery, slow down until your effort is easy and don’t fret about your speed.
Furthermore, heart rate will increase while running uphill; your body is working hard to climb! Like your speed, don’t overthink your heart rate. Focus on your effort and once you reach the top of the hill and are met with either a downhill or flat stretch, use that to recover and bring your heart rate back down. Take some slow, deep breaths, and continue on.
Finally, runners don’t need to run a hilly route everyday to see benefits. Running uphill is challenging; switch things up and keep some flatter routes in your regular routine as well!
How Can I Incorporate Hills Into My Running?
There are so many ways to include hills in your training! Because of their versatility, every runner can find a way to incorporate them into their running routine.
If you’re going out for an easy run or even a long run, running a “rolling hill” route can be very beneficial to your training. This doesn’t mean you’re running up and down a hill for X miles, but instead, you’ve chosen a route that’s not pancake flat. Over the course of your run, you are met with flat stretches of road, in addition to some uphills and downhills.
While hill workouts may seem like a cruel and unusual punishment, they’re included in your training for a reason! Bookended with both a warmup and cool down, you could add hill sprints, short reps, long reps, and hill circuits into your routine.
Fartleks are a fun way to add in unstructured faster running. If you’re doing a fartlek run on a hilly route, you might choose to run any uphills at a moderate effort and the downhills at a recovery effort. You could easily change up the uphill and downhill efforts depending on your current fitness and running goals.
Related: Fartlek Workouts: How to Run Fartleks, Benefits, and 3 Examples
Is your neighborhood particularly flat? Head to the trails and you may very well be met with some elevation changes. Keep in mind, effort should be your focus while trail running and climbing hills, not pace. And remember to be careful of roots and rocks!
Related: Trail Running for Beginners: What to Know Before You Get Started
Finally, you can incorporate hills into your training by using a treadmill. The most obvious way is changing around the elevation during your run. By doing this, not only will you get practice running at an incline and possibly a decline, depending on your treadmill, but you’ll utilize different muscles that you may not use if you were to leave the incline at 0%.
The NordicTrack Commercial 2450 Treadmill has both incline and decline features, so you can practice running uphill and downhill.
If you’re training for a particularly hilly race or trail race, you may have some treadmill climbs incorporated into your training. Simply increase the elevation and hike for an extended period of time. You may not be running per se, but you’re still mimicking a forward moving motion, building strength, and stressing the cardiovascular system.
Related: How to Run on the Treadmill: Best Tips and 5 Benefits
All in all, hill training is extremely beneficial for every runner. No matter your goal, make sure you’re including hills in your running routine and most importantly, be sure to have fun on them!
3 Principles of Slowing Adding Speed Into Your Training:
If you’re looking to slowly add speed and faster running into your training, start with these three strategies:
- Fartlek workouts
- Hill training
Looking for Guidance with Hill Training?
I would love to help you crush some hills! Email me at [email protected] or check out my Run Coaching Services page to work together and get started with hills.
Do you incorporate hills into your training? If so, how do you feel after crushing a hilly run?
What do you say to yourself when approaching a hill?