In the last decade, trail running events worldwide have become increasingly popular for those looking to step away from the “traditional” road marathons and track events. Basically trail running goes up and down and I have learned that it really levels the playing field between the runners who are really good and fast on flat (not me) and the more technical yet adventurous trail running (that’s more like me!)
But running uphill is scary .. First you feel you’re out of air almost immediately and then, after the run, you discover there’s pain in many new muscles you never knew they even existed like the upper quadriceps, your buttocks (yup, your butt) and of course the calves. However with the right techniques, foods, massages and creams, uphill running can be tackled and it’s really good to have this as part of any training plan.
The rewards: more efficient breathing, stronger muscles and brain power, and significant general improvements in endurance.
Start slow and on the Stairmaster (and alternate with the incline treadmill)
Obviously not the same, but the Stairmaster will teach you to run “quick and light” and also force you to maintain a normal breathing rate, while all you want to do is ventilate like there’s no tomorrow (yes Stairmaster is hard at the beginning). Also you’ll start to train the right muscles for natural hill running, hence minimizing the potential post-run pain when you start doing real hill running. The incline treadmill is great too for training, major drawback is that it’s really boring. Usually I do fast interval/hill training with them during regular workouts – really good cardio workout and teaches you the breathing part as well.
Get the right shoes
You need extra forefoot cushioning for uphill running and your shoes need to stay light – overall weight is really something you want to pay attention to. Also, one thing to consider is that you will go up, then down. Careful with too much cushioning, it may slow you down when you go down-hill.
Learn to “run tall”
Even with a slope, don’t forget to have a straight body alignment, aka “run tall”: head up, eyes forward, shoulders back, hips and knees aligned. Your elbows should be bent but remember that on an uphill/downhill trail, your biceps and shoulders will work harder than usual. With your body straight, your knees will naturally lift higher to allow for you to climb upwards, and your feet will be doing the angled work that gets you moving in the right direction.
It’s a very well known technique for sprinters. Check this video:
When it comes to running uphill, the greater the incline, the more use of your forefoot for the climb. One of the greatest benefits of running hills is that this is where speed is built for tackling faster flats. Of course, it’s not just sprinters and track runners who benefit from forced forefoot running. If you use your heels too much as when you’re normally walking, you’re going to cramp real fast.
Do the quick and light
This basically you run small steps more often. Trust me it works real well. This doesn’t mean that you increase your overall speed, which would totally change your breathing and your overall running momentum which will get you tired real fast, but you just increase your footspeed.
Only hit the hill when you’re ready
Once small and quick steps are mastered and the right gear is in check, it’s time to move from the stairs to the hills. The best place to practice uphill running are along uneven forest and mountain trails of gradual incline. The terrain naturally promotes twitch-fiber growth in muscles and the landscape always gives you new routes to run and new foot-falls even when on the “same” run uphill. Start easy and small, and find the right incline for your level. Too steep, and you’ll fatigue early, which can be deterring to those starting out. The best way forward is to increase your grade gradually, running the same route until you can claim that climb is conquered and move to a new challenge
Rest and recovery
Okay the bad news first: hill running does hurt. You’ll need to deal with muscle soreness the day of your race, and probably the day after. Here’s what I’ve learned:
@philippemora > I come from the future. I work and I workout. Always be kind and passionate.