The Proper Form for Running Hills

Having the proper form while running hills can help improve your efficiency. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Keep your stride short and your knees up when running hills.

This will increase your strike frequency and hopefully leg speed. When I first started training for marathons, my group coach at the time would always remind us to think about “short choppy steps.” To this day, I always repeat those three words when running up hills. Short choppy steps. Short choppy steps.

Stay on the balls of your feet and bounce off your toes for momentum.

Pump your arms to give yourself added momentum while running hills.

Keep your body straight.

Avoid leaning forward or hunching over, which can feel like a natural thing to do. Pretend your head is being pulled by a string straight up into the sky.

Keep your upper body relaxed. Try not to tense up your muscles.



Most runners can see adequate improvements running hills by naturally incorporating them into their everyday runs and running routes. Some runners may choose to also add hill repeats to their training, which can help build an increased capacity to tolerate hills and improve overall running ability.

If you choose to incorporate hills into your training regimen, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

Always do a proper warm up before starting a hill workout.

Start your warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of easy running. This should feel slow and comfortable to get the blood flowing.
Swap static stretching for dynamic stretching. Static stretching before running can cause muscle and/or tendon injuries. It should be reserved for after running. Instead, after jogging slowly for 5 to 10 minutes, perform dynamic stretches (like those listed below) to prepare your body for your run. Even if you are running on a treadmill, hop off to do your dynamic stretches before getting back on for your main workout. If you’re running outdoors, stop 10 minutes into your route to do dynamic stretching before continuing along a sidewalk. When you are pressed for time, it’s easy to want to skip this, but performing this warm-up will help you run better and feel better. Try these dynamic stretches as part of your warm-up routine:
  • Head rolls: Start by gently lowering one ear toward your shoulder on the same side without raising your shoulder up. From here, gently roll your head toward the front center of your body and then to the opposite shoulder. Repeat this 5 times to each side.
  • Big arm circles: Rotate one arm at a time forward like you are swimming in a circular motion and then backward. Switch to the other arm. Repeat 5 times in each direction per arm.
  • Back slappers: With your arms stretched out to both sides, cross them in front of you until they are seemingly hugging yourself where your hands “slap” your back. Do 10 reps, crossing the arms in alternating motions so the right is on top and then the left is on top during the “hugging” motion.
  • Hip circles: With your hands on your hips, move your body from the waist only in a circular motion clockwise five times and then repeat the motion counterclockwise five times.
  • Side twist: Moving from the waist only, twist your upper body and arms to one side, back to the center and then to the opposite side. Repeat the twist 5 times per side.
  • Knee up: Lift one leg as high as possible and gently grasp the knee and pull it slightly in toward your body while balancing on your opposite leg. Repeat walking forward alternating from leg to leg (5 reps per leg).
  • Running skip: Using a skipping motion, raise your knees high as you move forward. Swing your arms using large exaggerated motions. Continue for 30 seconds to one minute. You can also substitute or compliment this with a high knees drill.
  • Butt kickers: Either in place or moving forward, make a running motion with your legs but almost hit your rear with your feet to stretch out the hamstrings. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Sky walkers: With your hands reaching up to the sky. Walk forward kicking one leg up at the time trying to touch your toe to your hands to stretch your hamstrings. Repeat 5 times per leg.
  • Cradle walk: Warm up your hips and IT band with this move. Walking forward, stand on one foot and pull the other leg in an L-shape toward your body gently grabbing your knee with one hand and your ankle with the other. This should mimic a standing pigeon pose for those familiar with yoga. Repeat 5 times per leg.
  • Toe tappers: Warm up the shins by tapping your right foot on the ground 20 times and then repeating on the left.
Make your warm up a habit. Don’t skip your warm up to save time or do it inconsistently. An effective warm up will help effectively prepare your body for your run while assisting you in injury prevention. Unless you are only doing a slow, easy recovery run, this warm up should be part of every run, every time.
Prepare the body for recovery and your next workout with a proper cool down. Yes, these tips are about warm ups, but the only way to get to your next workout and next warm up is to recover properly in between runs. This starts with a cool down. When you finish your run, continue walking until your heart rate returns to normal. Then, do some static stretching, such as a forward bend, butterfly stretch, hamstring stretch, single leg stretch, downward dog, reverse pigeon pose, etc. For long runs, wait 1 to 2 hours before stretching. Don’t forget to eat something within 30 to 45 minutes after your workout with a 4 to 1 ratio of carbs to protein.
You also want to make sure you properly cool down after as well.

Avoid workouts like hill repeats IF you are experiencing any pain in your calves or Achilles.

Hills can add to these strains.

Hill repeats can be done on short hills (such as 30 to 100 meters in length) or longer hills (500 to 1,000 meters in length). These can be treated similarly to speed workouts, in which you charge up the hill at a fast pace (think 90 percent effort) and walk or jog back down while your heart rate returns to normal. You may choose to do 6 to 10 repeats on a shorter hill, while 3 to 8 are more appropriate for longer hills, gradually increasing reps as your training weeks continue.



1 comment

  • Guia

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