Hills February 28 2017
In 2010, my half-marathon walking dad signed us up for a race in my home state of Massachusetts. "Relatively flat" is what he swore the race website said...
In actuality, we learned at the start line that it was a 13.1 mile trek through the Blue Hills to the highest point in Eastern Massachusetts. Then we both swore... a lot!
Since then, we both have come to enjoy hills - not just tolerate, but truly enjoy. Not only does the change of terrain provide an air of mystery, hills can change your body and mind for the better:
Here are a few reasons that will have us all happily heading to the hills!
Hills Build Stamina: Training on hills improves your cardiovascular and respiratory systems, making your heart and lungs more powerful. The more you improve your oxygen intake and overall flow, your stamina will follow suit.
Hills Build Muscle: It's no surprise that running, walking and run/walk intervals build up your lower leg muscles. Hills do too, but target your upper legs, hamstrings and glutes (backside or reAH for my fellow Bostonians). A strong pair of legs will carry you far.
Hills Build Confidence: Fast or slow, run or walk, a hill climb is a true accomplishment. As a RRCA certified and Team in Training marathon coach, I always have my runners and walkers stop at the top of a hill during training. I ask them to look back and, literally and figuratively, see how far they have come and climbed. I believe that type of achievement boosts confidence.
PS: Climbing hills also burns more calories that training on a flat surface, which is another nice benefit!
Proper Technique to Run or Walk Hills:
- Slightly lean in to the hill: By bending slightly at the waist, you lower your center of gravity,
- Focus on the ground a few feet in front of you: If you look too far up the hill, it seems even more daunting
- Take smaller steps than your usual stride: Because you are exerting more effort on a hill than on a flat surface, you want to keep moving at a stride your body can handle.
- Move your arms: Pumping your arms by your sides for power and balance; dangling arms do no good. One trick one of my friends, Coach Les, taught me was to pretend you are pulling yourself ahead on a rope – it keeps your arms engaged, and gets you a few looks along the way.
Once at the top of the hill, enjoy the view. You earned it!