7 Hill Running Benefits to Make You a Stronger Runner

Are you bored with your workout routine? Or feel as if you’re slowly losing motivation and focus doing the same old thing during your run?

Don’t succumb to the call of the plateau!

You need to spice things up to get the flavor back in your game… and adding a hill run just might do the trick. Even better, there are plenty of hill running benefits that can help with your other workout routines too!

What is a Hill Run? 

A hill run, which is literally a run on a hill, is deemed to be an effective change in pace and level of difficulty because of the inclines in the terrain. Depending on your location and your running proficiency, you may opt for a hill with a much steeper incline to make it more challenging. Hill running also helps build muscle strength, as well as improves running economy, which is crucial for long distance races.

Endurance-building is a necessary part of run training, and this is something you can definitely achieve with hill running. It is also advisable for you to add short sprints uphill to challenge speed and fitness. This not only builds endurance and speed, but also strength. 

You can start off with a mile or two of easy running, and then a few drills. After that, do a 30-second hill sprint at full speed. Take an active rest by walking or jogging for about 2-3 minutes before doing the sprint again. 

If this is a new addition to your routine, start off with as little as 5 to 8 repetitions. You can gradually work your way up to 12-14 repetitions once you’ve gotten the hang of it.

Quick Tips for Hill Running

Beginner – As a beginner, it’s advisable that you start low and slow. Try to incorporate it in your routine once a week for now. You also need to find a hill that’s going to be “beginner-friendly.” This means low in height and with a fairly low degree of incline. 

You can try and get a feel of the hill’s incline by walking it first. Keep in mind that hill running is supposed to challenge your routine, so there still should be some degree of difficulty to it. 

Intermediate – If you’ve been running for a good while now, and you think you’re ready for more, hill running is definitely something you would want to add to your routine to increase strength and power. You can now do longer hills with steeper inclines to push yourself further. 

When doing hill workouts, it’s important that you still pace yourself even though you’re an intermediate runner. You need to also practice conserving your energy for the rest of your run, after all. So when going uphill, make sure your form is leaning forward, with your legs planting not too far out from your torso. This helps land your footing more surely, thus avoiding trips and falls from sudden brakes.

Expert – Steeper inclines, longer hills, faster sprint bursts. These are all to be expected from an expert running level. If you feel comfortable enough to regularly incorporate hill running to your routine, you can even do this on a daily basis. 

Sprints and repetitions are great for training consistency and endurance. Some types of hill run workouts you can add include the Fartlek hills, which require a hard push uphill and then taking on a more relaxed pace downhill.

Hill bounds, where you add a spring to your step, offer more vertical power. Imagine yourself leaping up more than dashing on the hill, but with more explosive power. This is very intense so a repetition of 4-8, once a week, should do. 

7 Benefits of Hill Running 

1. Build Strength and Endurance

Running on an incline, such as on a hill, requires a different running position on your torso. Because you are not running on flat ground, you have to engage your core more so you can carry your upper body weight better as you lean forward to create that balance with your legs.

Lean too forward and you risk tripping forward, while leaning too backward can have you rolling down the hill.

Running uphill also helps develop better strength and endurance because the power expected to be exerted is greater than on flat ground, since you’re also working against gravity.

2. Increase Calorie Burn

Depending on your weight, it’s said that uphill running can help burn as much as 800-1,400 calories per hour. For example, a 150-lb person can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour by running uphill as opposed to the 800 calories burned running on flat ground. 

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Running uphill also helps develop better strength and endurance.

Adding weights to your run can further yield more caloric burn. Just make sure that the weight you add to your run won’t be so heavy that it can significantly slow you down, or worse, injure you. 

3. Cardiovascular Improvement

The added intensity in hill running literally makes your heart stronger. In order to keep your stamina up so you can keep running, the heart must pump more blood to supply the muscles and organs with fresh oxygen. Doing repeats in hill running also helps increase the heart’s stroke volume.

Stroke volume refers to the amount of blood that the heart is able to pump out with every stroke. The higher the stroke volume, the lower the heart rate… which essentially means that the heart is able to function more efficiently. The more efficiently the heart works, the better the stamina becomes, thereby allowing you to run faster and for much longer. 

4. Injury Prevention

One of the more interesting differences between level-ground and hill running is that the former tends to be more of an injury-risk, while the latter is more effective at preventing it. 

More specifically, shin splints tend to occur more commonly on ground or downhill runs because of the pressure applied on the shinbones. This pressure, however, is alleviated during an uphill run. Assuming that you’re running in correct form, the force you exert when you propel yourself forward as you run uphill should be coming from your hips, and not from your shins. 

Of course, there’s also the more general knowledge that warming up and training your muscles make them more resilient to injuries. Adding one more consideration to your routine can help you better ensure a safer run.

5. Neuromuscular Development

The neuromuscular system refers to the communication line between your brain and your muscles. It’s important to have them working in sync so that the commands from your brain on how you should move will be accurately transmitted to the relevant muscles in order to execute them properly.

In the context of running, an optimized neuromuscular system translates to more efficient movements. This not only means you can run faster, but also be able to keep up the pace longer.

6. Race Preparation

With all the strength-building and endurance training you get from hill running, it helps you stay fit and conditioned for the race. Running entails muscle memory as well, so the repetitive movements you do during your training will certainly help you get into your best form while running.

The more frequently you run hills too, the less intimidating race courses will be. Especially if the course is mostly going to be on level ground, the level of difficulty exponentially decreases considering how you’ve gotten used to much more physically demanding terrain, such as with hills.

7. Develop Confidence and Mental Toughness

Although running is a very physical sport, it is very much a mental exercise as well. Those who fail to anticipate variations in terrain and weather conditions, or those who mismanage their expectations about the duration of the race, are more likely to lose their focus and concentration.

The more you overthink the race – its conditions, your capacity, and your ability – the more you are setting yourself up for failure. 

Running hills help you develop that mental toughness and resilience… traits that help you become a better focused runner. You are able to condition your mind to difficult and challenging conditions as the base standard, so that anything you meet lower than that standard becomes easier to overcome. Increasing the difficulty of your training with hills, therefore, also increases your proficiency in dealing with less difficult obstacles or courses. 

Final Thoughts on Hills Running Benefits

One of the ultimate goals for runners is to keep improving, both in your conditioning and abilities. This means you have to be open to the idea of challenging yourself and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.

Once you feel that things have gotten easier for you, that is a clear hint that you need to upgrade to the next level of your training… otherwise you will simply plateau. 

Hill running is that perfect upgrade to your training… not only because it helps improve your running, but also because it provides benefits that you can enjoy even outside of the activity.

We hope these benefits motivate you to challenge yourself as a runner. But just in case you need more motivation, here are 23 ways more you can motivate yourself to work out.

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