Hill running training technique tips

[The hill running training technique tips article was first published in CoachMag.com August 2015, in conjunction with Sony’s SmartWear and Tough Mudder]

Hill running doesn’t just prepare you for tackling slopes – it’ll boost your endurance and strengthen your legs ready for Tough Mudder. ‘There are three distinct approaches to hill running, and a time and a place for each of them,’ says running coach George Anderson.

The sprint

The hardest session is the flat-out hill sprint. Pick a fearsome incline and then belt up it as fast as possible for up to a minute, using a SmartWatch 3 from Sony to time yourself.

Then walk down to the bottom, and repeat. ‘Half a dozen will put hairs on anybody’s chest,’ says Anderson. ‘Although hill sprints can be vomit-inducing they’re also fantastic for building rock-solid lower-body power and strength.

That means they’ll not only help with hilly sections of your Tough Mudder, but also the explosiveness needed for obstacles such as Everest 2.0.’

Continuous hills

To help make your Tough Mudder distance feel more like a stroll in the (extremely muddy) park, continuous hills are a good way to prepare. Pick a hill with a gradient you can run down without disrupting your technique too much, and then spend eight to ten minutes pushing yourself up and down at an intensity of about 80% – tough, but not too tough that you can’t maintain it. ‘Keep this intensity on the way down as well as up – no stopping at the top for a breather,’ says Anderson.

Hills as obstacles

The third type of hill training is where you include a number of hills into a regular run. ‘Think of each hill as an obstacle to overcome, as you’ll have to at your Tough Mudder,’ says Anderson. ‘This will ready your body to handle slopes even when it’s tired, and give you the mental strength to get over all the obstacles even when your energy levels have taken a battering.’

Running up hills doesn’t have to strike fear into your very soul. Anderson’s tactics make things a little easier…

1) Lean into the hill

‘Try to lean in from your ankles rather than waist, so you’re using gravity to pull you upwards.’

2) Shorten your stride

‘Long strides where your foot lands in front of your body can put the brakes on with every step.’

3) Slow your pace

‘Unless the objective of the session calls for maximum effort, allow yourself to slow down when you encounter hills on the run.’