Following on from our last blog on using sprint training to increase your race pace we want to briefly cover the benefits of also integrating hill running into your training program.
Hill running has long been used as a training method to improve pace and running endurance, the reason is simple; you have to work against gravity which is trying to push you back down the hill. You will also be forced to use different muscle fibres than when running on the flat due to a change in the mechanics of running uphill. Unless you are highly adapted to hill running then these factors all combine to shock the body, which results in a greater training effect. This can mean fantastic improvements in speed and endurance as the body has to adapt to a completely new training stimulus.
However, as with any new training load, you must take caution. This rule is even more relevant with hill running due to the increased loading on the ankle joint and the kinetic chain of the lower body. Many of the common injuries we see with customers in-store, originate from a lack of ankle dorsiflexion.
If you consider that the ankle should dorsiflex to at least 80 degrees when running on flat surfaces, then it becomes clear that the more you tilt the running surface the more the foot has to effectively dorsiflex to compensate. As most people struggle to dorsiflex past 80 degrees, without excessive strain on the calfs or other mechanical compensations, it’s clear why it’s very important to progress slowly with hill running (on a side note, the amount of dorsiflexion you can do cannot be simply judged by pulling your foot up yourself – it needs to be looked at by a trained professional as there are other factors to consider). Feel free to call our friendly team on 023 9269 8285 if you need any more information.
With this in mind we would definitely recommend the following tips if you are considering hill running for the first time, or aren’t a regular hill runner:
- Always warm up for at least 15 minutes before a hill session
- Calf stretching and ankle mobility exercises after your warm up are essential to reduce injury risk
- Start small, it sounds obvious, but the steeper the hill the more stress on the body; so start with a lower gradient then increase slowly
- Finding a hill may be difficult depending on where you live, but remember most treadmills have a gradient feature that will allow you to simulate hill running; this also allows you to control the exact gradient
- To start with treat hill running like sprint training, by running reps of hill sections interspersed with flat or downhill sections, slowly increasing the proportion of hill to flat/down sections
- Learn to run downhill properly; you can’t really train hill running without running downhill; so learn to do it correctly as it can be very stressful on your knees. Check out this article on downhill running for more info
- Consider hilly trails as the addition of undulating, varied terrain will reduce the repetitive stress on the body and will also boost the training effect
Finally remember to have fun and listen to your body, and you should find hill running a great addition to your race pace training.
Here is the next blog article in the marathon series: