How to run hills is a question I get a lot from runners and triathletes. We are all guilty of looking at a race elevation profile and passing on entering it because we feel there are “too many hills”. I swear if I had a dollar for everytime someone said, “the course was more hilly than I thought it was going to be,” I would be a millionaire baziollonaire. I think running uphill is something you can learn to do with a little practice. Truth be told, I would rather run uphill than downhill. For some reason I absolutely destroy my quads when I am running downhill.
I had a post almost a year ago on “Running Technique on Hills” that has one of the best videos ever by Dave Scott. Click on the link to see the video. There Dave talks about the form you should use when running uphill and downhill. I think the reason I kill my quads when running steep descents is because I do tend to overstride more than just a little. So again, check out the video to see what Dave’s suggestions are for your form.
What I want to talk about in this post is your attitude — how you are going to view hills. Regardless of whether you are in training or racing, you really should view hills as your friend. In training, hills are like your secret strategy to help you HTFU and get faster. They are a great strategy to help you with your intervals. I absolutely love running uphill during training because I can get my heart rate up, improve my leg strength, and improve my mental toughness. There isn’t a hill alive that I wouldn’t love to run.
Then there are the hills that pop up during a race. I love hills during a race because it gives me the chance to pass people. Like a lot of people. The first wave you pass are those racers who start walking about half way up the hill. My guess is they have the physical strength to make it, just not the mental toughness. The second wave you pass are the people who start walking as they crest the hill. I think their problem is a little mental toughness as well. But then the third group you will pass are those who do not maintain their exertion levels on the downhill and use it as a time to recover. I say keep your heart rate within your target range while running downhill, but put the pedal to the metal and run it. You can pass a ton of people on both sides of a hill.
So how is it done? I think it is about mental toughness. When I think about mentally tough and possibly a couple of steps into CrazyTown, I think Mike Tyson. I came across a video on the uber endurance athlete Jason’s blog the other day. If you don’t have Jason’s blog in your list of regular reads, add it. Dude can cook. But I digress.
Mike Tyson was one bad dude in the day. He made some poor choices outside of the ring, but inside of the ring, dude was tough. He went into each fight KNOWING he would win. Fortunately for him, he had the physical tools to back that swagger up. I suggest you have that same swagger when it comes to the hills. KNOW you can mow down a hill. KNOW that you will pass people on a climb. KNOW that it may hurt now, but like Lance Armstrong once said,
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.“
So in your next training run, plan to detour TO the hills. Get your hill running legs ready for a hilly race. Then sign up for a race with hills and get ready to rock it. And just for a little inspiration, check out this video I grabbed from Jason’s blog that features Mike Tyson’s 10 greatest knock-out punches. Get out an attack those hills and use the mantra, “JUST LIKE MIKE” when you are flattening out those inclines.
What is your strategy to mentally tackle the hills on your run?