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Advice for conquering hills? (Read 1660 times)


Roadrunner's Apprentice

    Hello!  This is my first post here though I've been using the running log for a long time.  I've been running about a year and a half and got started with the Couch to 5K program.  I run just to improve fitness and have not done any races yet.  I had a busy past few months but I'm now working to get back to my prior norm of 3-4 runs per week and 12-15 miles per week.  I'm not particularly fast, I might break 10:00/mile on a good day.

     

    I'm moving away from treadmill workouts to running more on the road, and I'm wondering what advice the more seasoned runners here might offer on strategies for tackling hills?

     

    Thanks in advance.

    2014 Goals:

    - sub-26 5K : sub-56 10K : 1st half marathon

    - Tell my excuses to shut up and lace up...

      Hello!  This is my first post here though I've been using the running log for a long time.  I've been running about a year and a half and got started with the Couch to 5K program.  I run just to improve fitness and have not done any races yet.  I had a busy past few months but I'm now working to get back to my prior norm of 3-4 runs per week and 12-15 miles per week.  I'm not particularly fast, I might break 10:00/mile on a good day.

       

      I'm moving away from treadmill workouts to running more on the road, and I'm wondering what advice the more seasoned runners here might offer on strategies for tackling hills?

       

      Thanks in advance.

      My advice is; don't tackle it.  Embrace it (well, kinda half joking).  Actually seriously; there's a saying: "Don't run hard until you can run easy." (Ron Daws)  One of the biggest mistakes most beginners make is try to run up the hill fast.  Just as you had started C25K, slowly and gradually; do so with hills.  To run up the hill hard, or "tackle" the hill, you need to have good aerobic base (so you won't get into oxygen debt too quickly) and strong legs to work against gravity.  In other words, before you can even think about "tackling" the hill, work on your leg strength by going up SLOWLY.  Take very short stride length, keep a good running form with good knee lift, feel your feet "grip" the ground.  Get the image of staying on the ground a half a second longer each step than usual running (of course, it's not quite a half a second but you get the idea); work on PUSH, PUSH, PUSH...  Once you get your legs strong enough that, as you run up, say, 150-200m or so without your "knees laughing", then, and only then, you can even consider running up the hill relatively fast--or "tackle" the hill.


      Roadrunner's Apprentice

        Thanks for the quick reply.

         

        I am trying to stick to my cadence (about 165 BPM) which is keeping my strides short, and I try to focus on keeping good form.  Something I tried today was to just keep my head down and not see or think about how much farther I had to go!  It helped I think.  What gets to me though is not so much my legs but rather my breathing.

         

        So, is there anything I should be adjusting on my form going uphill?  Or in my breathing pattern?

        2014 Goals:

        - sub-26 5K : sub-56 10K : 1st half marathon

        - Tell my excuses to shut up and lace up...

          Thanks for the quick reply.

           

          I am trying to stick to my cadence (about 165 BPM) which is keeping my strides short, and I try to focus on keeping good form.  Something I tried today was to just keep my head down and not see or think about how much farther I had to go!  It helped I think.  What gets to me though is not so much my legs but rather my breathing.

           

          So, is there anything I should be adjusting on my form going uphill?  Or in my breathing pattern?

          Yes, don't look down.  You look down and you'll crunch up your chest.  You need to look up and open up your chest so you can get more air in your lungs.  There was this Japanese coach who always said: "Look at the top of the tree 30 yard ahead of you..." so you'll open up your chest.  It also get your back straight and makes it easier to bring your knees up.

           

          If your breathing is getting rapid going up the hill, slow down even more.  Or take some walking break.  You do NOT want to make this an anaerobic session as yet.  Try to go to facebook page called Arthur Lydiard Legacy.  I think I posted a short clip of this Japanese marathon champion, Toshihiko Seko, doing hill running.  He's a 2:08 marathon runner, twice Boston champion, and see how SLOWLY he's going up.  It's about 800m long uphill but there's a beautiful shot of him from the back, at his foot level, and you can tell how he's working on the "snap" of his ankle with good knee lift. 


          Roadrunner's Apprentice

            All right, some things to try for my next time out, thanks!  I'll look up the FB page you cited too.

             

            For the record, my breathing is normally a 3 steps in 3 steps out pattern when I'm running comfortably.  Up hill it shortens to a 3 in-2 out or even a 2-2.

            2014 Goals:

            - sub-26 5K : sub-56 10K : 1st half marathon

            - Tell my excuses to shut up and lace up...

              Following Nobby's thoughts, here's a brief article from Matt Carpenter, one of the great mountain runners:

              http://www.skyrunner.com/story/may_win_ot.htm

              It closes with "I’ll never conquer the Peak". The article is old and he has since resumed competing on Pike's Peak.

               

              You need to relax and work *with* the hill, don't fight it.

               

              Another reason for not looking down is to watch where you're going - so you don't bump into a bear or other traffic. (did see a black bear about 1.5 wks ago on a hill, and race leaders a few days ago ran into a grizzly)

              "So many people get stuck in the routine of life that their dreams waste away. This is about living the dream." - Cave Dog


              Roadrunner's Apprentice

                I only need to worry about the occasional rabbit or squirrel thankfully - no bears around here...

                 

                So aside from keeping my head up to open my chest breathing, are there any other points on form or technique I should be thinking about that will help "work with the hill"?  Such as leaning forward more maybe?

                 

                Thanks Nobby, AKTrail and any others who may chime in.

                2014 Goals:

                - sub-26 5K : sub-56 10K : 1st half marathon

                - Tell my excuses to shut up and lace up...

                  My biggest focus is to stay light on my feet as I run up the hill, and not look directly at the top of the hill.  I try to look straight ahead and focus on staying smooth and as easy as possible even though I know the hills are hard.  If I start looking at the top, sometimes that is discouraging.  

                   

                  One of the things that I try to do just so I focus on staying easy on the hill is going trying to stretch my stride out as I crest the hill.  It's natural to run shorter strides up a hill, but I hate when I keep that choppy stride at the top because I know I'm going way slower then.  Smooth up the hill and stretch it out at the crest of the hill.


                  A Saucy Wench

                    I only need to worry about the occasional rabbit or squirrel thankfully - no bears around here...

                     

                    So aside from keeping my head up to open my chest breathing, are there any other points on form or technique I should be thinking about that will help "work with the hill"?  Such as leaning forward more maybe?

                     

                    Thanks Nobby, AKTrail and any others who may chime in.

                     

                    No don't lean forward. That is the same as looking down.  In fact for most new runners you almost want to think lean back.

                     

                    Think of a rope that runs up the hill and stays always just above waist height the whole way.  Imagine using that rope to pull yourself up the hill as you run.  (this shouldnt alter your arm swing, the imaginary rope is at exactly the height that your arms need!)  On tough hills if you look really closely you can see me pinch my fingers closed around the rope as I "pull"  

                     

                    If the hill is really really long and you cant see the imaginary post at the top of the hill, you can hook it to the waist of a runner 30 ft in front of you.  That attachment point is where your eyes are at.   Not that I am advocating staring at other runners' butts but you gotta do what you gotta do. 

                    I have become Death, the destroyer of electronic gadgets

                     

                    "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - dd, age 7


                    Roadrunner's Apprentice

                      Thanks for the tips.  I'll try some of these ideas next time and see how it goes.  I know some of this is mental as well as physical. 

                      2014 Goals:

                      - sub-26 5K : sub-56 10K : 1st half marathon

                      - Tell my excuses to shut up and lace up...


                      day after day sameness

                        Shorten your stride.

                        Push off with your gluts and quads versus pulling forward with your hamstings.

                        Breath more deeply and deliberately.

                        Choosing my words carefully has never been my strength I've been known to be vague and often pointless

                          Shorten your stride.

                          +1.  Taking longer strides on an uphill is like mashing a high gear in cycling: it may feel powerful, but it's incredibly energy-inefficient.

                           

                          I like to look ahead (without tilting my head back, of course).  I don't mind climbs, and I like to see what's coming.

                          “Everything you need is already inside.” -- Bill Bowerman

                             

                            Breath more deeply and deliberately.

                             

                            + 1

                            Another piece of advice that works for me when breathing gets taxed - focus on exhaling more completely.  Your inhalations are automatic and  will be deeper if you exhale more fully - something about the negative pressure.  I just think of it as getting more oxygen to my lungs, thus my muscles, when I need it most. Plus it gives me something else to think about other than the fact I am running up a big a$$ hill.

                              Hi Pcavallo, some good advice here.  I am certainly no expert, but I do live at the top of a hill (in Central NH) that has three roads up, one route is a 200' elevation gain, the other two routes are 150' each. Every run I do outside includes one of these  hills, most runs also include  some other nastys ( at least to me, I am no Sherpa).

                               

                              Generally, I shorten my stride and try to maintain the same cadence. On days when the running is easy, I don't care where I look. But on days when I am laboring some, I refuse to look at the top of the hill.  I focus on a spot about 20'-30' feet ahead and just keep turning my feet over.

                               

                              Good luck.

                                Yes, don't look down.  You look down and you'll crunch up your chest.  You need to look up and open up your chest so you can get more air in your lungs.  There was this Japanese coach who always said: "Look at the top of the tree 30 yard ahead of you..." so you'll open up your chest.  It also get your back straight and makes it easier to bring your knees up.

                                 

                                If your breathing is getting rapid going up the hill, slow down even more.  Or take some walking break.  You do NOT want to make this an anaerobic session as yet.  Try to go to facebook page called Arthur Lydiard Legacy.  I think I posted a short clip of this Japanese marathon champion, Toshihiko Seko, doing hill running.  He's a 2:08 marathon runner, twice Boston champion, and see how SLOWLY he's going up.  It's about 800m long uphill but there's a beautiful shot of him from the back, at his foot level, and you can tell how he's working on the "snap" of his ankle with good knee lift. 

                                 

                                Not just on hills, this looking down is my major current form flaw and something I'm working desperately to fix, a lifelong habit. I'm having to remind myself severalf times a mile. The advice about looking at the top of the trees is great. The head is also key to Chi running.

                                 

                                The OC Half-Marathon, in addition to photos, has little video clips of me running by, and in every one, my head is completely bowed over, so I'm looking straight down. It almost looks like I have some kind of condition. When I get my head up, I immediately start running 5-10 seconds per mile faster.

                                 

                                This is an absolutely key for me if I want to get better. Applies to hills or no hills. 

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