Hill Running Training & Fell Running

Whether you love it or hate it, hill running is an essential part of a runner's training – even if the race you are preparing for is on a relatively flat course, you need to include hill running into your training on a regular basis.  Why?  Because regular hill running has three benefits that can help any runner to improve:

• It increases your mental toughness
• It will give your stride a stronger push off
• It will increase the flexibility of your hips

Let's look at each in turn:

Increased Mental Toughness:  Not surprisingly, many runners hate hill running, and they therefore avoid doing it.  The result is that when they get in a race with any kind of incline, they psych themselves out, see it as a huge obstacle.  The alternative?  Rather than avoiding hills, embrace them, become familiar with them, make them a strength, so that when you encounter them in a race you can attack them.  In reality, almost every course has some hills, even if it's only gentle rollers, but if you regularly run hills in your training, you will find that you can approach them with confidence in a race.

A Stronger Push-Off:  Hill running is a great form of resistance training for runners, and will help to strengthen your ankles.  If your ankles are stronger, you can push off the ground more powerfully with each stride, which propels you further forward, allowing you to run faster with less effort.

More Flexible Hips:  The final benefit of training on hills is that you will increase your stride length by improving the flexibility of your hips.  As stride length is a key factor in running speed – the further each stride takes you, the fewer strides you have to take – this will help you to run faster.

So how do you do it?  Approach hill running as simply another form of interval training – the same basic rules apply:

• Warm-up with 10 to 15 minutes of easy running
• For the intervals themselves, try to find a hill that takes you from 1 to 4 minutes to run up. Push up the hill hard, keeping good form, then jog slowly back down to allow your heart rate to recover.  Start by doing 4 repeats, then gradually add one repeat per week to a maximum of 8
• Cool-down with 10 to 15 minutes easy running at the end

Good form for hill running is slightly different to your usual running style.  You'll want to lean forward slightly, pump your arms, and work to maintain a good pace all the way to the top.  If you also try also to lift your knees a little bit higher than usual, it will help to improve your hip flexibility and thus increase your stride length.

Regularly including these workouts in your program will do much to improve your speed, strength, and endurance, as well as making you mentally stronger.