Running on hills is an important part of training for any race. If your goal race is on a hilly course, specific training becomes very important. Hills pose a unique challenge, but can also benefit runners by activating different muscle groups than you use on flat courses. Keep reading for tips to successfully take to the hills.
MIX IT IN: Complete a few hilly runs during base phase, running at a consistent effort level on hills and flat sections. This is a good introduction to hill running.
HILL TRAINING PHASE: Plan a training phase where you focus more on hills. In our Life Time Run Finish Line Group Training classes, this is done in month two for marathoners and weeks four to six for half marathoners. We call this the aerobic development phase, which includes hills, tempo runs and long runs. During your hill block, run one hard hill session weekly, choosing from the following workout types:
- Hill repeats (up a short-and-steep or long-and-gradual incline)
- Hill circuits (loops on a hilly route)
- Tempo runs on hills
INCORPORATE REGULAR HILLS: After you move on between the aerobic endurance/hill phase, incorporate hills on at least one run weekly, whether that’s your long run, an easy run or even a race-pace run.
FOCUS ON FORM: Get up on your toes, shorten your stride, lean into the hill slightly and let your gaze fall 10 to 15 feet in front of you.
BE PATIENT: Don’t start too fast – it’s better to accelerate up the hill than to burn out before the crest.
ON RACE DAY
On race day, the goal is not to be passing runners on every hill, but to maintain your best pace possible throughout the race despite the hills. Use your strengths to choose the best hill approach.
DOWNHILL SPEEDSTERS: If you are a stronger downhill runner, just focus on getting up the hills without going deeply anaerobic. You’ll pass people back on the downhills.
MOUNTAIN GOATS: If you’re a strong hill climber, focus on keeping a solid effort on the uphills, and you’ll likely pass many runners without redlining.
FUELING TIPS: Avoid taking fluid or gels on an uphill segment, as that will ramp up your heart rate and cause you to go anaerobic when you’re not ready. Save the fluids or gels for after a hill has crested.
Once race day arrives, you’ll be ready to approach hills with confidence, and crest each hill knowing that you are on track for your goal.