It might be tempting to avoid the hills and look for a flat area to complete your runs – since it’s relatively easier – but it’s good to challenge yourself on a hilly road every now and then. It could help you become a stronger runner. A study published in the 2015 International Journal of Sports Physiology showed that runners who ran high-intensity intervals in the hills, improved their efficiency – thanks to a higher cadence and longer stride – and ended up being about two percent faster on the 5000 meters. Reason enough to find yourself some good hills.
Running in the hills could help you increase your cadence, as you move uphills by making small and quick steps. Meanwhile, running in the hills helps you become stronger, and that will lengthen your stride.
It’s not only the uphill part that you’ll benefit from, also running downhill could have significant benefits for your running. While running uphill triggers your heart and lungs to work hard, running downhill will be hard on your quads and lower legs due to the impact. Of course, you always feel impact on your legs when running, also on flat ground, but when descending the impact is much higher, creating small tears, that eventually stimulates your muscles to grow stronger.
Things to keep in mind when doing hill training:
One thing to keep in mind is that people – during endurance training or races, where you want to run at a rather flat effort – often tend to run uphill too fast, which will eventually slow them down. Try to keep the effort similar to the effort you would put in when running on flat grounds by watching your heart rate and breathing.
You could improve your uphill skills in many ways, one way is by doing hill sprints. As for instance: 4 x 20 seconds running at a steady fast pace. Walk/jog down before you start the next one. You could build this up by increasing the length of the sprint to 30/40 seconds or even a minute, and by doing more sprints (up to ten) as you become more experienced. A hill with a gentle incline of about two to three percent, meaning it goes up about two to three meters per 100 meters, would be most suitable for this type of training. So find yourself a hill, not a mountain.
Don’t neglect the downhill part. As you also benefit from practicing downhill running – and likely you will have to deal with that at some point in a race – you should make this a serious part of training too and not just “jog” down. Instead, try to not make your stride too long, but make small and fast steps.