You enjoy running, right?
Running down a long road or open trail with fast-moving legs and quick pumping arms, as a runner, what more can you ask for? The feeling you get from a fast and edgy pace is incomparable.
It’s sure satisfying to reach a new PR and add a fast time to our running portfolio. I mean, who doesn’t like a fast, easy, record-smashing long run?
But what happens when every run begins to feel like the last? When your race times all start to look the same? What happens when it seems like no matter what you do, your speed and endurance never improves?
Not only do we become frustrated, but we become demotivated in the process. When we hit a running stand still or, a plateau, things can get frustrating… and in a hurry.
When this occurs, we all handle things a little different.
Some runners know they can do better. The type of runner who searches for the answers, who apply what they learn, and gets the results. If you are reading this, then chances are, this type of runner is YOU, the one reading this RIGHT NOW. And you know what? Although this may be the hardest route, it’s always the most rewarding.
But not all runners take this route.
Some runners may choose to take a supplement that claims to enhance performance. But, although this may work in the short-term, it’s never sustainable long-term. Plus it always includes negative side effects.
Then there are the runners who SETTLE. These runners become content with their current abilities and give up on improving altogether.
And maybe the worse case of all, some may QUIT running and NEVER find out what they were truly capable of. In running, self-doubt is one of the greatest enemies we face in reaching our true potential.
But here’s the funny thing: exactly what we avoid during our runs, is exactly what makes us better as runners.
What do I mean?
Well, we expand by demand. Our bodies adapt to stress. So unless we add more resistance to our run and push ourselves to run faster and longer we will never grow.
You might be thinking: “Okay, I get it. But I do push myself and I still achieve very little results. What am I do wrong?”
Well, that is the million dollar question, isn’t it?
And the answer is…
You need to run more HILLS! To become a stronger and faster runner with incredible power and stamina than run more hills! It’s a sure fire way to the top!
How do I know this?
Because I have done it myself. Going from running a mile to a marathon, to 100-mile ultra marathons required a change in elevation.
So in other words…
By running more hills you will force your body to raise its heart rate while training. This, in turn, increases its aerobic and anaerobic capacities in the process. So, in the end, we improve our stamina, power, speed, and overall strength.
You see, hills create more variety and intensity. When we add this to our training runs we come to realize this is exactly whats required to make a change. Variety and intensity is exactly what we need to progress and snap out of our same old running routines. It’s what allows us to avoid and break free of running plateaus.
Here’s the thing, if you train the way you’ve always trained, you’ll get the results you’ve always gotten. So variety and a change in intensity is the key to breakthrough a running plateau. Hills will provide us with that change.
That is pretty cool, right?
Improving your running just by increasing elevation from time to time. It could be as easy as turning left down the street instead of right. Or following a different color trail. Or by pushing the incline button a few extra times on the treadmill. That’s it!
A few simple adjustments in our training runs and our running improves like crazy!
So by adding extra elevation to our training runs our bodies will adapt to its new stresses and give us new gains. Those new gains we’ve been searching for so long.
With that, there are different ways to approach running hills.
So for this important topic, I had to bring in help from some of the best experts in running elevation. These runners don’t only run hills, they run mountains! Remember, if we want to become the best, we must learn from the best, and these athletes are some of the best hill runners around.
As you might have guessed from the headline, 7 experts will share their wisdom with you.
I asked them the following question:
What is your number one tip for running hills?
Note: all 7 experts provide their BEST tips for running hills. So be sure to read each tip, and most importantly, apply their tips to your running FAST to achieve FAST results.
So without further ado, here are the experts…
~Professional Ultra Runner for Salomon and Coach
“Treat the hill as an equal. There is no point in labeling it ‘bad’, ‘tough’, ‘annoying’ or any other negative connotation. Run hills with a positive attitude.”
“Focus on form instead of speed and continue to breathe and be relaxed. You can make hills as hard or as easy as you want, but start by framing them in a positive way and take it from there.”
Connect With Majell:
~Ultra Trail World Tour Athlete featured in ESPN
“Everyone always gets a bit worried about hill running, there is no need to. There are a few things that you can do to run better up hills and be more efficient.”
“First, short strides. This will allow you to be really powerful in your steps and propel you forward. Landing on the ball of your foot to give maximum stability and explosive power.”
“Second, engage the core. Having a strong core will really help on the ups and also the downs. Being able to hold your body nice and tall, keep your lungs open, will make you so much more efficient and allow you to breathe more. This will also reduce the amount of excess movement from your upper body, saving the energy for your legs.”
“Third, hills are not just about the ups, they are about the downs too! On the downs, you need to run with confidence and look up. You should be looking 4-8 steps ahead, planning your route, the path of least resistance. You want to flow as best as possible to save energy, be efficient, and also have fun!”
Connect With Tom:
~Professional Ultra Runner for NIKE Trail Elite
“My number one tip for running hills, especially during a race, is to not be afraid to slow down and decrease your effort. If you increase your cadence and decrease your speed, you will be able to keep your effort closer to that of running flat terrain and avoid burning out too early and having no climbing legs later on. Remember, climbing requires more energy, so keep your climbs at a smart pace and a smile on your face!”
Connect With Keely:
~Ultra Trail Runner for The North Face Team
“My number one tip for running hills is to run at high altitudes with long uphills. I like to climb to the top and enjoy the views. Also, if we climb high, after that, we need to do a long downhill, and I like that.”
“The most important thing is to enjoy ourselves on the trails and have a good time when we compete.”
“Here’s a tip: look 5 meters beyond where you step to know, always, what you will find.”
Connect With Pau:
~From the short film: A Day In The MTNS
“Running hills can sometimes take the wind out of your mental sail when you are cruising at a good clip. It does not have to be that way. Let me try and change your point of view. There’s not really much advantage to running up a hill at a 18min/mi pace so just giving it a good hearty shuffle hike. You’ll be exerting less energy and saving your game for the rest of your run. That said, if you can’t see the top of the hill – shuffle. If you can, run it! You’ll be proud of yourself for the accomplishment no matter how small, and the endorphin rush will be an added bonus.”
Connect With Tara:
~Professional Runner For Hoka One One & Coach (taking on new athletes)
“I believe that one of the best things you can do to improve your uphill running is increasing your cadence. Instead of taking big, powerful strides, you should focus on keeping your stride shorter and quicker. I like to equate it to the best climbers in cycling. They have a quick turnover as opposed to mashing big gears up ascents. Give it a shot!”
Connect With Chris:
~Professional Ultra Runner For NIKE Trail Elite
“My number one tip for running up hills is to run through the top of the hill. So many people run to the top of the hill and slow down in relief. Train yourself to run through the top, really focusing on moving your arms and not thinking you’re over it until you start running flat/downhill. It helps with carrying your momentum up and over the hill and onto the next section.”
“A few other tricks I use are picking a point (like a tree or a rock) about 20-30 meters ahead of you and pulling yourself to that before looking ahead to another point until you reach the top, and concentrating on moving your arms. Your arms play a big role in carrying you up the hill and I think that gets overlooked a lot. Focusing on almost over-exaggerated arm motion can help you move up the hill more quickly.”
Connect With Alex:
Let’s Take It Home
So there you have it. Expert hill running tips from the hill running experts!
Without sounding too much like a broken record, allow me to emphasize something. It’s something I stress in 6 ENDURANCE PROS REVEAL THEIR #1 TIPS TO INCREASE RUNNING STAMINA.
That something is this: if you want to change your running for the better then you must change yourself for the better. That’s the only way it happens.
How do we do this? Simple—learn from those who are better.
I know, achieving gains and breaking through a running plateau can be tough. While increasing elevation can be tougher.
But all you need to do is add hills to your running route…that’s it. This way, you don’t even have to designate a run to ”hill training“. So instead of focusing on WHEN to run hills, just run them, and you can now focus on HOW to run hills. And that’s where the experts come in. 7 hill running experts shared some incredible tips. Why are they incredible? Because they come from EXPERIENCE and if you ask me, that’s what matters most.
So be sure to check out their websites, coaching sessions, videos, and articles. If we learn from these experts and apply what they offer, we will become a much better runner in a short period of time.
You know, hills are sort of like our lives in a way. Doing what takes little effort will only provide us with small results, it will hardly make us better. But doing what takes more effort will provide us with BIG results and always makes us better. When we perform against high levels of stress we achieve high levels of growth.
Growth is not experienced by something common like stepping outside of our house. When we step outside of our comfort zone, that’s when we experience growth!
A boxer can be great on a heavy bag, but what happens when that bag hits back? When a boxer fights back against another person, that’s when they experience growth! A basketball player can have a great shot, but what happens when there’s a full court press? When a basketball player has a hand in their face, that’s when they experience growth! And a runner can run a fast time on flat ground, but what happens when the ground rises? When a runner faces 30,000 feet of elevation gain, that’s when they experience growth!
It’s all about how we run against the many stresses we face on the trails, on the roads, and in our lives. When we push back against stress, that’s when we experience real long lasting growth! It happens because it doesn’t only push us physically, but it pushes us MENTALLY as well.
Julian Jornet said it best in his book Run Or Die. He said:
“The secret isn’t in your legs, but in your strength of mind. You need to go for a run when it is raining, windy, and snowing, when lightning sets trees on fire as you pass them, when snowflakes or hailstones strike your legs and body in the storm and make you weep, and in order to keep running, you have to wipe away the tears to see the stones, walls, or sky.”
This tells us that growth isn’t only created when we push past our physical limitations. But it occurs when we push past our mental limitations as well. This teaches our bodies to run long, to run faster, and to break through running plateaus. And WOW, does elevation gain challenge both our physical and mental.
So as we run those trails and we reach that mountain, and we climb those rocks, and we reach that peak, we then take a look. We take a look out into the world and suddenly we are struck with a whole new outlook.
Suddenly, we realize there was never a hill that stood in our way from this incredible view. We realize it was OURSELVES that held us back the entire time. And by pushing past our comfort zone we did not only climb that mountain, we BECAME the person who could climb that mountain. And that person you become is far more valuable than any hill could EVER be …. oh … and you get to have a blast running down it too!
Remember…When we step outside of our comfort zone, that’s when we experience growth! And don’t forget to check out Long Run: 11 Tips For Becoming A Better Distance Runner.
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