Hill Training for a Better, Stronger You (and Bum)

June 10, 2009


Running is like a box of chocolates, you never know what [terrain] you're going to get. After spending a few weeks back in Tennessee, I decided to start my summer vacationing by heading out to the West coast (Seattle, WA to be exact). Of course I can't let my summer excursions interfere with my marathon training so I set out to tackle the mean streets of SEATAC.

Turns out, the area is extremely hilly. My marathon workout has taken an intense turn and most days leave me cursing steep climbs and questioning my sanity and marathon dreams. After doing a little research, I've had a bit of a change of heart. Granted the thought of running uphill is enough to put off my runs for hours (and even days), but there seems to be an upside to the mountainous treks.

If you've ever wondered why Kenyans dominate the running circuit, the answer may be in the terrain they run. After all, they aren't fortunate to have gyms as we Americans do. According to hill-training Coach Joe Vigil who has a Ph.D. in exercise physiology, he views hill training through a technical lens. "We use oscillatory terrain to increase the athlete's adaptation to stress, and to teach a more efficient use of glycogen," he says. "It also gives them a nice reactive power that improves their running economy" (Runner's World August 2004).

In essence, hill training has the ability to increase your endurance, strength and speed. Not only that, but hill training is great for toning your legs and your rear. (I think I already notice a difference!) And last but not least, physically, and definitely psychologically, training on hills is equivalent to way more mileage than the same thing on flat ground ( i.e. if you are training sixteen miles on hills, it is like doing eighteen-twenty miles on flat ground). And that is good news to me!

With anything, there is a right and wrong way to conquer those hills in your life. Below is a video I came across on uphill and downhill running techniques to help prevent injury. So when life gives you hills, take a deep breath, begin your climb and expect a really nice bum on the other side.

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