Many runners, even those who have been practicing this sport for fun and fitness for years, approach hills with trepidation. Slopes both gentle and steep pose a variety of challenges for runners, whether they're puffing up or speeding down.
That said, adding hilly terrain to your training regimen can deliver untold benefits, helping you to become a stronger, more versatile athlete and preparing you for any number of running challenges, from cross-country races to standard marathons and everything in between. If you're still skeptical about your ability to master hill running, you'll find that there is no shortage of tips and tricks to help you learn proper form and safe practices.
What you may need in order to motivate you, though, is a rundown of all you stand to gain when you decide to try hill running. Here are just a few of the greatest benefits associated with hill training for runners.
You might think that all running works your muscles in the same ways, but when you
transition from flat planes to slopes, you're going to discover this is not true. Jogging up and down hills forces you to adjust your stride length, posture, pace, and footfalls to compensate for altered terrain, and your muscles will have to work in different ways to propel you uphill or control momentum going downhill.
Although any type of running will require the muscles of your body to put forth a coordinated effort, hill running taxes your muscle groups in different ways, and you're going to feel the results both during and after exercise. The good news is that any time you switch up your workout you're going to challenge your body in new ways and see improvements as a result.
Even if you've never run up or down a hill before, you are probably well aware of the fact that it's going to require more effort than running on a flat expanse. When you exercise in new ways, you're going to require more oxygen, not to mention blood flow to carry oxygen to demanding muscles.
Running is among the best activities for improving cardiopulmonary function in general, but when you decide to add hills to your regimen you stand to improve even further. Because our bodies adapt to exercise, it's easy to settle into a rut when you limit yourself to running on level ground. Throwing inclines and declines into the mix forces your body to exert itself and adapt to new demands, improving along the way.
If you spend months training to run a mile on a flat surface, chances are you're going to improve up to a certain point, all things being equal, and then you're going to hit a wall. This is because performing the same movements over and over will only get you so far.
If you want to continue to see improvements, you have to challenge your body in new ways. When you continue to run that same distance, but add intermittent hills to your training sessions, you're sure to find it taxing at first. However, you'll also find that it grows easier over time, and that you see progress while running the same mile on flat ground.
If you're a competitive runner, whether you compete in races or you're simply in competition with yourself, you'll find that there's a point at which you're going all out but seeing no further improvements. This is where varying your routine can help immensely.
Adding strength training to any workout regimen can help you to boost results, and with running it's easy to add strength challenges simply by training on hilly ground. Jogging on sloped ground forces you to demand more from muscles, which helps you to increase strength, power, and speed.
Believe it or not, this type of training can even help to prevent injury. Hill running targets not only muscles, but also tendons and ligaments, increasing strength and stability all around.
Signing up for races is an excellent way to motivate yourself to train, but what happens if you train on flat terrain and there are hills along the race course? You won't be able to compete with runners that have hills in their training rotation.