Five ways to get better at hilly runs

Feed your inner mountain goat to overtake the pack this season


Hate running up hills? You’re not alone, but as Nik Cook explains, if you can learn to love them you’ll reap the rewards come race season…

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A hilly run course is nothing to fear and, as everyone in the field is facing the same hills, if you can make hills a strength, you can learn to love them and use them to move up through the field. Try the following tips to feed your inner mountain goat…

>>> Four hill running sessions to boost your triathlon race speed

Run a variety of hills

Use a mixture of hills in training and vary the intensity you run them at. Try these three reps:

1. Five to 10 short, steep and hard 30-60sec reps with 60-90sec recoveries.

2. Four to six 5min threshold (85-90% max HR) efforts on moderate (5-8%) hills with equal length jog down recoveries.

3. One or two 20min tempo efforts (75-80% max HR) on a shallow (2-5%) hill with 5min jog recovery.

Think about technique

The most common mistakes when running uphill are over-striding and letting your head and upper body collapse forwards. You drop gears on a bike so why not running?

Gear your stride right down to tippy-toe baby steps and up your cadence. If you think you need to take two steps, take three. Keep your head up and try to engage your glutes as much as possible.

Run off-road

Get off the roads and you’ll find steeper and tougher hills. If you make your long runs hilly, use the trails and really focus on efficient and economical hill running technique. You’ll soon learn to pace hills and, when you go back to the tarmac, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Don’t stress too much about heart rate

Heart rate is a good guide to intensity, but popping into a higher zone when ascending shouldn’t cause you anxiety.

>>> Best heart rate zones for running

A hill can’t go on forever and will always be followed by a flat or descent. Working on hill reps will show you that you can go hard uphill, recover and go again.

Set yourself a killer hill challenge

Confront your fear, head on, with a hellish hill challenge after a block of hill work. How about running up and down a mountain? Snowdon and Ben Nevis both have runnable trails.

If you log your training by GPS, how quickly can you accumulate the equivalent ascent of running up Everest’s 8,848m? We reckon three to four weeks would be a decent target.

(Image: Jason Newsome)

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