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August 07, 2014

Four Reasons to Head to the Hills this Summer

Written by Dena Evans

Windy_Hill

 

If your usual palette of running or walking routes is dominated by flat paths, there are several reasons why it makes sense to include some hill work in your regular rotation. Similarly, if your favorite loops include plenty of hills, there should be lots of motivation to savor the opportunity to get out there and plug away up the slopes.  Even if your workouts are generally confined to a treadmill, raising the incline can also provide a taste of hills

 

In the past, we have detailed some basic tips for getting up and down hills efficiently.  Even if you remember these tips, it is always good to periodically remind yourself of the basics which may have been neglected when other concerns become priorities while out for a run or walk.

 

Assuming you are moving efficiently and in a way that will help prevent injury, there are a number of good reasons to stick with this type of terrain, even if it is outside of your comfort zone.

 

Hills help you learn how to manage challenges without stressing out

Races (and even training) can often include unanticipated hurdles to clear, or rough patches. Adding some terrain where the pace may be slightly more difficult to come by or where your rhythm is disrupted can help remind you to move with efficient form.   Hills encourage you to focus on slower, rhythmic breathing, which can also help even as the hill is crested. In short, hills help remove distractions and increase concentration on the task at hand.  That can help, even if the going is currently a bit more tough.

 

Hills can turn a fear into a strength

Avoiding hills intentionally or unintentionally because they are difficult might be a way to avoid some more challenging workouts, but they also might obscure an opportunity to develop a new strength.  Consider whether you want to approach a hilly section of your goal race with the attitude of dread or one where you tell yourself, “This is my time.”  Practice on hills and you might find that you can cover that type of terrain better than others in your typical pace group.  Rarely does it make sense to truly charge up a hill in the midst of your half or full marathon effort, but approaching the base of a climb with confidence that you are at least or even better prepared for the challenge than your fellow racers is an extremely positive feeling to have.  You can even have a significant impact on your training partners with that positive attitude and help their confidence as well.

 

Hills can raise your heart rate without the pounding

When your schedule calls for efforts over a certain amount of time with qualitative descriptions for the paces, such as “uptempo,” an uphill path can achieve the desired effort with less gravitational pressure than would be required on a flat or downhill route.  If impact related injuries are a concern or even if extended periods of time on hard surfaces are a concern, an uphill route can mitigate some of those stresses while not compromising the desired effort level.  You may not be traveling that exact same speed as a flat path, but your cardiovascular system will be similarly stimulated.

 

Hills are strength work for key muscles

Running or walking up hills places an increased demand on your glutes, and calves, not to mention your quads, which are pushed both on the uphill as well as the downhill portions of your workout.  These muscles are key for any goal race where serious fatigue can set in.  Including hills sensibly in your weekly routine can help challenge these muscles and prepare them to handle the extraordinary requirements of a lengthy effort over an unforgiving pavement course.

 

Running or walking hills can be great for these or other specific benefits, but they also can just be a fun new challenge.  Embrace what they offer and get the most of your time on the hills. Even if you don’t enjoy the process 100% of the time, it is usually time well spent toward the achievement of your goals.  You may not enjoy them at the moment, but you will likely be glad for them when on the victorious side of the finish line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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