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.
- 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.
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.