Are you wondering about the benefits of hill running?
If you have been running for a while, you may have heard about including hill running into your training every now and then.
Arthur Lydiard had started it, and almost everybody does it now. Well, there are reasons for that. And in this post, I’ll tell you exactly why.
You will feel lucky to be in an area with hills instead of feeling bad about it.
Here are the 9 benefits of hill running:
1. Build Strength
Running uphill is a form of resistance training. And the best part is, it’s highly specific to running.
So you get the advantages of strength training as well as running. You get stronger. And at the same time, improve your endurance, running economy and gain such other benefits.
While running uphill, you have to work against gravity. You have to lift your bodyweight up the hill.
In the process, you work on the muscles of your calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. These muscles become stronger, making you well prepared to handle stress in the future.
This is the reason why some runners say, “Hills are strength training in disguise.”
Short, powerful hill repeats of 10 to 12 seconds are very effective for building strength and power.
2. Increase Endurance
Hill running is not all about those short, close-to-max-effort repetitions.
In fact, you can perform any of your workouts on hills. Easy run, long run or even tempo run.
Of course, you’ll have to make adjustments. You will have to approach hills by effort level rather than pace. You cannot run at the same pace as you would on a flat course.
By performing some of your easy runs or the long run on a hilly road each week, you can improve your endurance.
Plus, doing these runs on hilly roads will prepare you for the races that have hilly slopes. Physically and mentally.
Just try to increase your effort gradually over the training period.
3. Increase Speed
By running short powerful hill repeats, your speed and acceleration will improve. These powerful repeats train the very muscle fibers that are used when your run fast.
Also, when you run downhill, you work on your speed with less effort. The gravity works in your favor.
Running downhill also improves your running economy.
4. Improve Running Form
Hill training also promotes good running form.
To be optimal on hills, you have to take shorter strides. It improves your leg turnover (cadence). An improved cadence alone gives you many advantages.
You have to let your knee lift up naturally which also promotes optimal upper body movement. Especially, arms swinging.
Many runners lean forward at the hips too much. Which may seem natural but it is not optimal. To fix this you have to maintain an upright posture – one of the key components of a good running form.
Also, while running uphill, you’ll naturally land midfoot or forefoot, depending on the slope.
So as your body learns to function the best on hills, your running form improves.
5. Running Economy
As a result of strong leg muscles, improved cadence and running form, your running economy (the amount of energy used at a given pace) improves.
The short, intense hill repetitions of 10 to 12 seconds are the most effective for improving your running economy.
6. Prevent Injuries
Hills also help you build resistance to some common running-related injuries.
When you run uphill, you will experience less landing shock. So if you’re prone to an injury like shin splints, running uphill reduces this risk.
Be careful on the downhills though. Downhill running can produce a lot of landing shock that can put you at risk of injury.
The trick is to increase your downhill running gradually. Just like anything else in running.
Downhill running is not all bad though. It can actually help you develop resistance to some injuries by making you stronger.
Downhill running is especially good for reducing Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
In the beginning, you may experience some pain and stiffness in your leg muscles by running downhills. And it may last for a few days.
This happens because of very small-scale damage to the muscle fibers.
It may sound bad at first, but the muscles quickly adapt to prevent this kind of muscle damage in the future. Hence your risk of muscle soreness decreases.
7. Mental Toughness
Hills are tough.
There is no denying the fact. In fact, this is the reason why so many runners are not very comfortable with them. Some even fear the hills.
But as you will get comfortable with hills, flat roads will seem easier.
Through consistent hill training, you will become tougher. Not just physically but also mentally.
Hills will make you a tough competitor.
8. Burn More Calories
You burn more calories running uphill in comparison to running on a level surface. This is simply because you have to work harder as you go up the hill.
By lifting your knee a little higher then you would on a level surface, your body has to work harder.
Your lungs and heart also have to put in extra work to reach the top.
More calories burn.
This is great for someone who wants to lose unnecessary fat from their bodies.
9. Make Training Interesting
In addition to the incredible benefits noted above, incorporating hill workouts into your training will keep things interesting for you.
You may get bored by always running the same flat road. Hills provide a nice option to mix things up.
By running up and down the hills, your body and mind will feel the freshness.
- Barnes KR, Hopkins WG, McGuigan MR, Kilding AE. 2013. Effects of different uphill interval-training programs on running economy and performance. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 8: 639-647.
- Padulo J, Powell D, Milia R, Ardigò LP. 2013. A Paradigm of Uphill Running. PLoS ONE 8(7): e69006.
- Gottschall JS, Kram R. 2005. Ground reaction forces during downhill and uphill running. Journal of Biomechanics. 38(3):445-52.
- Minetti AE, Moia C, Roi GS, Susta D, Ferretti G. 2002. Energy cost of walking and running at extreme uphill and downhill slopes. J Appl Physiol.93(3):1039–46.
- Delayed onset muscle soreness. Wikipedia.