Runners across the world always search for ways to strengthen their bodies and enhance their form. Some gobble up mile and after mile, running into what seems to be an infinite horizon. Others will spend endless hours turning a perpetual left on a track, working to improve speed and technique. No matter what training tactics high quality runners implement, in order to truly progress they all integrate the use of hills, both large and small, into their individual plans.
For the running novice, someone who is either just beginning to get his legs under him or someone who has been running with less than a diverse training routine, hills can seem like more pain that they are worth; however, nothing could be further from the truth. Dedicating entire workouts to hill sessions can greatly enhance a runner’s strength, speed, and form, which all will have a profound impact on normal flat surface or track competition.
When attacking a hill, the runner should realize that the largest challenge is not the hill itself, but rather it is his own body weight working against him. Thus, using the body properly can force muscles to work harder than normal, resulting in faster growth. While leaning slightly forward, the runner should relax the entire upper body while focusing his eyes ahead, not down at the hill itself. Meanwhile, his knees should lift high and strong, with the calve muscle reaching complete extension with each step.
Once a runner develops a strong sense for hill form, he will begin to see the benefits of his dedication. First, running on slightly shorter hills will maximize a runner’s speed and strength, with powerful bursts training the body’s muscles to contract more rapidly and recover with the same rapidity. Next, the runner will see a discernable difference in overall power and stride length, using the legs to drive forward and cover more distance in each step. Also, the runner will see a more balanced approach, as hill running encourages the use of the arms as direct assistance to the legs. The integration of the upper body’s strength will help to propel the body in normal circumstances and maintain solid form over a longer period of time.
Overall, if a runner finds himself stuck in a plateau phase that simply refuses to let him progress in any significant way, he must examine his training methods and choices. Electing to involve the use of hills on a weekly basis will undeniably help to crack the plateau and get the body moving ahead. As a result, the runner will see his performance on race day or standard training workouts change for the better. Not only will his body feel stronger and respond with more power, but the physical change will unquestionably make the runner a more mentally fortified competitor, as his confidence and self-esteem follow his leg’s lead.