- 11 Powerful Reasons Why You Should Be Running
- 11 Incredible Benefits of Running
- 1. Running is convenient.
- 2. Running is cheap.
- 3. You’ll improve your cardiovascular health.
- 4. Running is easy to learn.
- 5. It can help you lose weight.
- 6. You’ll get a natural high.
- 7. You’ll work your legs and your core
- 8. Running can strengthen your bones.
- 9. It can improve your athleticism.
- 10. Running can improve your mental well-being.
- 11. Running offers constant variety.
- The 3 Basic Types of Running
- 4 Ways to Take Care of Yourself While Running
- Is Running Good Or Bad For Your Health?
- Hill Sprints: How to Build Muscle and Burn Fat
- My Personal Experience With Hill Sprints
- Getting Started
- Additional Tips
- How to beat the hill
- The plan
- Hill Running: 5 Reasons to Love the Incline
- Speed training: how hill running will make an athlete faster
- More Articles
- Hill Running Benefits, Strategies, Tips, And Racing Hills
- Benefits of Running Hills
- How To Run Hills
- How Often To Run Hills
- Running A Hilly Race
- Hills training with unbelievable benefits for runners
11 Powerful Reasons Why You Should Be Running
On the definitive list of amazing exercise activities, running ranks pretty highly — the practical benefits include convenience and affordability, but from a health standpoint, it’s an effective way to keep both your body and brain in great shape.
“Running is one of the simplest cardiovascular activities you can do, with benefits for nearly every part of your body,” says Meghan Kennihan, NASM-CPT, a Road Runners Club of America and USA Triathlon run coach.
Recover after your run with Openfit’s Yoga 52 program! Try it free today.
11 Incredible Benefits of Running
From head to toe, mood to muscles, here’s why so many people extol the virtues of running.
1. Running is convenient.
Unlike hitting the gym or playing a round of tennis, running is something you can do anytime, anywhere. “You can literally go right outside your door and start,” says Amanda Shannon Verrengia, ACE-certified personal trainer and USA Track and Field and RRCA coach.
Just lace up your running shoes and you’re ready to pound the pavement — or the treadmill, the track, the park, or the trail behind your house. The options are endless. And you don’t have to carve out precious alone time to run, either. As Verrengia notes, you can bring your dog with you, or head out with a friend or significant other.
2. Running is cheap.
In the age of pricey gym memberships and boutique workout studios that charge upwards of $30 a class, running can actually help you save cash. It’s free to do, and requires minimal gear. “All you need is a good pair of running shoes ,” says Kennihan.
3. You’ll improve your cardiovascular health.
The body is amazingly adaptable, and when faced with repeated bouts of challenging aerobic (oxygen requiring) exercise, it upgrades the functioning of its entire cardiorespiratory system to better handle that exercise. “You’re lungs, heart, and vascular system will all become more effective and efficient at delivering oxygen throughout your body, especially to working muscles,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Openfit’s director of fitness and nutrition content. “And the more efficient they become, the healthier you’ll be overall.”
4. Running is easy to learn.
That doesn’t mean running is easy — it just means you don’t have to possess any special skills to do it. As Kennihan notes, chances are good you already learned to run when you were a toddler, so now you just need to familiarize yourself with proper form.
5. It can help you lose weight.
Running can be a major boon to your weight-loss goals. “The precise number of calories you burn while running depends on such things as height, weight, age, gender, fitness level, exercise intensity, and running experience,” says Thieme. “But moving your body at a challenging pace will almost certainly have a positive effect on your body composition—especially when you’re just starting out.”
Thieme notes that as you become fitter, you’ll likely have to increase the intensity of your workouts to continue to shed fat. “If you keep doing the same thing, you’ll eventually stop adapting to it,” says Thieme. “Switch things up with intervals, tempo training, and other higher intensity workouts to keep torching calories and dropping pounds.”
6. You’ll get a natural high.
Runner’s high — the feeling of euphoria you get during or following a run — is real.
“Running boosts the brain’s serotonin levels, dopamine levels, and endorphins,” says Kennihan. That quick injection of joy and energy is awesome in and of itself, but the added benefit is that helps keep you motivated to tackle your next workout.
7. You’ll work your legs and your core
If you’ve ever watched a marathon or track and field event, you know the positive effect running can have on the lower body. But few people realize just how beneficial it can be for the core.
“Running automatically engages your core muscles and forces you to stabilize your hips,” says Kennihan. A strong core can help with balance, stability, and stamina in everyday activities, she adds, like walking, playing sports, carrying groceries, and even maintaining good posture as you work at your desk.
8. Running can strengthen your bones.
“Running is a weight-bearing exercise that stresses the bones just enough to help build more density,” Kennihan says.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that running not only has a greater effect on bone density than non-weight-bearing activities like cycling, but that it also has a greater effect on bone density than other weight-bearing activities like resistance training.
That doesn’t mean you should ditch strength training in your quest for more robust bones — the difference between strength training and running was statistically significant but functionally negligible in that respect. Plus, when combined with running, the two activities offer a killer one-two punch to help build stronger bones, Kennihan adds.
9. It can improve your athleticism.
Running is an essential component of many sports, from football to cricket. It’s no surprise, then, that regular running workouts, which help improve your stamina, speed, and cardiovascular endurance, can make you a stronger, more adaptable athlete.
10. Running can improve your mental well-being.
Running isn’t just good for your body — it can work wonders for your mental and emotional health, too.
A study from the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation found that regular exercisers experienced an increase in vigor and a decrease in fatigue after 25 minutes on a treadmill, while non-exercisers showed no improvement in these areas after the same activity.
Research also suggests that regular aerobic activity like running can help keep your mind sharp as you age. One study showed that endurance running in particular may help maintain cognitive function in elderly adults.
11. Running offers constant variety.
From an outsider’s perspective, running might look boring, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. “You can do so many different workouts with running,” says Kennihan. Speed work, fartleks, tempo runs, trail runs, treadmill workouts, and hill runs are just a few, she says.
And not only can you vary the pace and distance, you can also switch up the terrain and location to keep things interesting — you can run along the beach, challenge yourself to a mountain trail, or cruise around your neighborhood cul-de-sacs. You can even use your runs as an excuse to explore a new area, like a park or waterfront trail.
The 3 Basic Types of Running
Of course, not all running is the same. There are three basic levels, each of which can provide unique benefits.
Kennihan defines jogging as running at a gentle pace slower than 6 mph (10 kph).
“Typically, those don’t enjoy running, or who aren’t going to be competing in any races, can get away with only jogging one to two times a week and still get health benefits,” she says. For people with minimal running experience, jogging can be a great way to get started.
When you increase your pace above 6 mph, you cross the threshold from jogging into what is technically running. And when you keep up that pace for more than five miles, you’re distance running.
Although popular with all age groups, distance running tends to become increasingly attractive to people as they age and begin to lose fast-twitch muscle fibers, Kennihan says. “While we can’t run any faster ,” she says, “we can still run longer and longer.”
Verrengia adds that distance running is also a great way to build up your cardiovascular health. The mental toughness you get as a result is just a bonus.
Jogging and distance running target your slow-twitch (type I) muscle fibers, which are engineered for endurance. Alternately, sprinting targets the same fibers as weightlifting — your more powerful fast-twitch (type II) fibers — and when performed repeatedly in the context of a workout, is a form of high intensity interval training (HIIT).
“Speed work, or interval training, encompasses bursts of intense effort separated by recovery periods of slower running, jogging, or walking,” says Kennihan. These types of workouts can help you increase your speed, running efficiency, and fatigue resistance, as well as your power and muscular endurance, she explains.
Speed work is also the most effective type of running workout for shedding fat. But because it is so physically demanding, it should only be performed after you’ve already built a strong fitness foundation through jogging and running.
4 Ways to Take Care of Yourself While Running
As with any form of exercise, running has its risks.
Sprained ankles and pulled muscles can happen if you run on uneven terrain or skip your warm-up. But even more insidious are so-called overuse injuries — like shin splints, tendonitis, and even stress fractures.
1. Don’t forget to warm up — and cool down.
You would never start a car in third gear, but that’s essentially what you’re asking your body to do if you start exercising without a proper warm-up. Light jogging and dynamic stretching will help prime your muscles for action, boosting performance and reducing your risk of injury. Cooling down in the same way as you warm up—and perhaps even throwing in some foam rolling—can have the same effect by getting your post-workout recovery off on the right foot.
2. Take it slow.
Injuries also tend to occur when you try to increase your training load (e.g., mileage) too quickly. To avoid such injuries, Kennihan suggests you gradually build up your mileage by no more than 10 percent per week.
3. Make sure to vary your workouts.
Verrengia adds that it’s also important to actively work on optimizing your running form, regularly mixing up your workouts (like incorporating more speed work, or adding hills into your routine), and including other forms of exercise — not just running — in your regime.
“Runners need to realize that strength work, stretching, muscle release work, foam rolling, play an important role in how successfully and healthfully they’re able to run,” she explains.
4. Go on recovery runs.
Making recovery a priority includes recovery runs, which are short, easy cardio sessions (usually 15-20 minutes long) meant to help reduce muscle soreness and fatigue.
Mellow workouts like this are important for all runners, novices and veterans alike, and are usually done the day after a more physically demanding run (like an interval session or race). “You should be able to have full conversations with people on these runs, and not feel any burn in the legs,” says Kennihan.
If you’re a beginner, Kennihan says your recovery can take the form of foam rolling or yoga in lieu of adding mileage. “For those with higher mileage bases, recovery runs are great for increasing your aerobic base without causing more stress,” she says.
It may seem obvious – as you push on through a long run, veering wildly between sensations of agony and elation – that running can have a huge effect on your state of mind. It is an intuitive idea that a growing number of neuroscientists have begun to take seriously, and in recent years they have started to show us what actually plays out on the hills and valleys of your grey matter as you run.
Their findings confirm what many runners know from their own experience: we can use running as a tool to improve the way we think and feel. And we are now learning precisely why running can return focus, vanquish stress and improve mood. Plus we know why – if you’re lucky – you might get a brief glimpse of nirvana.
It would be crazy to believe that running is a universal solution to all of our psychological challenges. Indeed, from your brain’s perspective, you may not want to push it too hard. German neuroscientists scanned the brains of some of the competitors before, during, and after the TransEurope Foot Race, in which competitors slog through 3,000 miles, over 64 consecutive days. In the middle of this absurdly extreme ultramarathon, the runners’ grey matter had shrunk in volume by 6%: the ‘normal’ shrinkage associated with old age is just 0.2% each year. Luckily, the story doesn’t end too badly: eight months later the runners’ brains were back to normal.
But if covering immense distances can be counter-productive, it is clear now that more moderate runs can result in very real benefits. First, in a world where smartphones bombard us with stimulation and blur the boundaries between work and life, a clutch of recent studies shows why going for a run can help regain a sense of control.
A 2018 experiment from West Michigan University, for example, showed that running quickly for half an hour improves “cortical flicker frequency” threshold. This is associated with the ability to better process information. Two others, from the Lithuanian Sports University and Nottingham Trent University, showed that interval running improves aspects of “executive function”. This is a suite of mental high-level faculties that include the ability to marshall attention, tune out distractions, switch between tasks and solve problems. Among the young people studied, measurable gains were clear immediately after 10 minutes of interval sprints. They also accumulated after seven weeks of training.
A brain imaging study led by David Raichlen at the University of Arizona ties in neatly with these results. They saw clear differences in brain activity in serious runners, compared to well-matched non-runners. For obvious reasons, you cannot run while you are inside a brain scanner, so the neuroscientists studied the brain at rest. First, they saw increased co-ordinated activity in regions, mainly at the front of the brain, known to be involved in executive functions and working memory. This makes sense. Second, they saw relative damping down of activity in the “default mode network”, a series of linked brain regions that spring into action whenever we are idle or distracted. Your default mode network is the source of your inner monologue, the instigator of mind-wandering and the voice that ruminates on your past. Its effects are not always welcome or helpful, and have been associated with clinical depression.
Raichlen’s was a preliminary study, but if corroborated in the future, it will lend fresh weight to the idea that running can be a form of moving mindfulness meditation. Brain scans show that meditation and running can have a somewhat similar effect on the brain; simultaneously engaging executive functions and turning down the chatter of the default mode network. Again, this seems intuitively right: in the midst of a run, you are likely to be immersed in the present moment, tuned into your bodily state, and conscious of your breath. These are all key aims of mindfulness-based practices. Lacing up your trainers and going for a run could, therefore, be a way to reap some of the psychological benefits of mindfulness. Companies, too, are cottoning on to the therapeutic effects of running: I recently worked with running-shoe company Saucony to create a podcast about the effects of running on the mind.
All of this might start to explain why some people find that running, like mindfulness, can be a useful way to overcome stress and depression. Recent research from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden shows, at a chemical level, how running can defuse at least one important biological stress pathway.
When you are under stress, metabolic processes in your liver convert the amino acid tryptophan into a molecule with the mumble-inducing name of knyurenine. Some of that knyurenine finds its way into your brain, where its accumulation has been strongly associated with stress-induced depression, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia. When you exercise, the levels of an enzyme called kynurenine aminotransferase build up in your muscles. This enzyme breaks down knyurenine into the related molecule kynurenic acid, which, importantly, cannot enter the brain. In this way, exercising your skeletal muscles by running clears from your bloodstream a substance that can cause mental health problems. It is important to note that, for technical and ethical reasons, some of the details of this mechanism have been proven only in laboratory animals.
Saucony has even named its latest shoe collection – available from www.sportshoes.com – “White Noise” after the mind-clearing effects of a run Photograph: Saucony
At first glance, it is not obvious why working your leg muscles should have a direct effect on your mental state. This work provides rare insight into the often-mysterious links between brain and body – and is a powerful reminder that your brain is just another bodily organ. What you choose to do with your body will, inevitably, have psychological consequences.
Running can do more for your mood than smooth out stress. Some lucky souls gloat about their experiences of the “runner’s high”, which, they claim, is a powerful feeling of ecstasy and invincibility. Running has never quite done that for me, but we do now know more about the potent chemical rewards that running triggers in the brain.
The popular idea of the “endorphin rush” was born in the 1980s and 90s, when a series of studies showed that the levels of beta-endorphin increase in your bloodstream during the course of a run. Beta-endorphin targets the same receptors as opiates, and has some similar biological effects. The endorphin rush hypothesis always had a flaw, however, since beta-endorphin does not cross readily the blood-brain barrier. And if it didn’t make it into your brain, how could it give you a high?
In 2008, German neuroscientists put that right. They used functional brain imaging to show that, in trained runners, beta-endorphin levels do indeed spike in the brain after a two-hour run. Increased levels endorphin activity in the brain also correlated with the runners’ self-reported feelings of euphoria.
It is not just home-brew opiates that can dull the pain and raise your spirits while you are on the run. Endocannabinoids are a diverse family of bodily chemicals which, like cannabis, bind the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. The levels of endocannabinoids circulating in the blood rises after 30 minutes of moderately intense treadmill running. Rigorous experiments, conducted on lab mice, show that running-induced endocannabinoids are responsible for reductions in anxiety and perception of pain. It is a good bet that the same mechanism works in our minds. For many of us, running may never deliver a drug-like high. But we now see why a run that feels like murder at the start can leave you feel satisfied and at ease by the home straight.
Some of these studies are preliminary and need fleshing out. And it is definitely the case that your gender, genetic profile, fitness, expectations and many other factors besides will influence the way your brain responds to running. Even so, I read all these neuroscientific studies as good news stories.
While the physical benefits of running and aerobic exercise are well established, we are starting to see why running can have profound benefits for mental health, too. Hopefully, knowing this will redouble your determination to get out there and run more often.
Ben tweets at @mountainogre
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Is Running Good Or Bad For Your Health?
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There’s no question that running changes your heart.
The issue is whether these changes are good or bad. I don’t mean the occasional 3 miles once or twice a week, although even this minimal amount of exercise seems to have positive health benefits.
A famous 2014 study led by Duck-chul Lee that followed 55,000 adults for more than 15 years concluded that even modest amounts of running, around 50 minutes a week total, causes a 30 percent drop in all-cause mortality risk and an average increase of three years in lifespan. The results of this study were fairly flat with respect to running time, distance, frequency, amount and speed, compared to non-runners, although persistent runners “had the most significant benefits, with 29 percent and 50 percent lower risks of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, respectively, compared with never-runners.” However, the authors caution that “further research is needed to determine whether there is an upper limit to the amount of vigorous physical activity, beyond which additional exercise provides no further mortality reduction.”
In other words, can too much running be bad for you?
The issue here, as pointed out in an excellent special report by Alex Hutchinson published this month in Runner’s World, is what happens long term to your heart if you are a pretty serious runner, averaging 20 or more miles a week consistently for a long time.
The controversy heated up after a 2012 editorial in the British journal Heart co-authored by cardiologist James O’Keefe.
“Exercise may be the most important component of a healthy lifestyle, but like any powerful drug you’ve got to get the dose right,” he said.
Excessive running may thicken the heart tissue, causing fibrosis or scarring, and this may lead to atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat. Prolonged exercise may also lead to “oxidative stress,” a buildup of free radicals that may bind with cholesterol to create plaque in your arteries.
It makes some sense that too much of a good thing may end up being bad for you. The question is how accurate can these assertions be in longitudinal studies where many conflicting factors are taken into account. Every person is different. Different genetic makeup and predisposition to disease, different diet, different lifestyle. These variables, as well as others like body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, are routinely either ignored or adjusted in studies to make the statistical analysis more manageable. Unfortunately, we can’t have copies of the same person doing different things for a more direct comparison.
Being 57 and a very serious runner, I have a vested interest in these studies. There’s no question that when I run up steep trails, I can feel the stress in my heart — sometimes to the point that I need to slow down and hike up in order to get things under control. Your body is usually good at telling when you are going over the limit. We all have a max heart rate, and using watches with heart monitors can be immensely useful to track your heart’s effort. However, we can’t see what’s going on inside, whether our heart tissue is getting thicker and our arteries progressively more blocked. Hence, the interest in these discussions among experts, despite their usually confusing conclusions.
As Hutchinson reports, the overall news is fortunately good. A special symposium at this year’s conference of the American College of Sports Medicine, held in Boston, convened many experts, including Duck-chul Lee, Paul Thompson from the Hartford Health-Care Heart and Vascular Institute, and Paul T. Williams, a biostatistician from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Williams’ studies have been following 156,000 men and women since the early 1990s. The title of the symposium was perfect: “Optimal Dose of Running for Health: Is More Better or Worse?”
Since the 2014 study, Lee has been looking more carefully at the group of more intense runners. His conclusions, still not final, “don’t support that more is worse. But more may not be better.” Williams, on the other hand, insists that more is better. In his huge study, he found that men running at least 40 miles a week (a pretty serious mileage) were 26 percent less likely to develop coronary heart disease than those running just 13 miles per week. According to Williams, the apparent discrepancy between the two studies is sample size: “At 156,000 subjects, we’re bigger than they are. So I’ll stand behind our data.”
Endurance runners can have hearts that are 50 percent bigger than normal: more muscle to pump blood to those working muscles. Their arteries are wider and more expandable so that more blood can flow. Their resting heart rates are slower. They have more abundant capillaries improving blood circulation to tissues. So, even if there would be an increase in calcium buildup in arteries potentially leading to clogging, it could be less damaging than for a non-runner with thinner arteries and less capillaries. Also, in runners such plaques tend to be denser and thus less breakable. The evidence is not final, but it’s also not as bad as many think. The health benefits of running short or long distances are so overwhelmingly positive that they swamp potential dangers.
Plus, there is a whole different aspect to this discussion, the psychological reasons why people run. Serious runners have a commitment that goes beyond just exercising for good health. Generally, the more they run, the more they feel connected to their inner-selves, the more clearly they see themselves and the tasks ahead. There’s something exhilarating about running, the freedom to move on a road or on a trail, that sends us back to our primal selves. If you are a beginner, it may take a while to break through the initial barrier of physical discomfort. But with persistence comes big payoff. And this is an emotional, not just a medical, payoff.
As we evolved as bipeds, we became able to run for long distances after prey, having an endurance that antelope or deer don’t have. This is engraved in our genetic makeup, imprinted in our being. Modern life takes this away from us, as we spend hours a day sitting in front of screens, motionless. (As I am right now, writing this.) The act of running connects us with our ancient past, awakening a part of us that lays dormant, hidden underneath our daily routine.
Every runner should listen to his or her body and slow down and stop if necessary. I even wear an ID band, just in case something bad happens on some remote mountain trail. Consulting a sports physician is essential, if you are to become a serious runner.
But, once potential medical factors are ruled out, those of us who love running can’t live without it. Whatever goes on in the heart and arteries, the mind only gets clearer on the road.
Marcelo Gleiser is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist — and a professor of natural philosophy, physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He is the co-founder of 13.7 and an active promoter of science to the general public. His latest book is The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected: A Natural Philosopher’s Quest for Trout and the Meaning of Everything. You can keep up with Marcelo on Facebook and Twitter: @mgleiser
Hill Sprints: How to Build Muscle and Burn Fat
Forget doing your cardio on a Stairmaster or treadmill. If you want to get into shape fast, burn fat, and build muscle hill sprints are the way to go.
Forget doing your cardio on a Stairmaster or treadmill. If you want to get into shape fast, burn fat, and build muscle hill sprints are the way to go.
They were the choice of NFL legends Jerry Rice and Walter Payton and should be your primary conditioning workout, too. This is because no other cardio workout produces results as quickly. The burning pain doing them creates builds mental toughness that will make you a better competitor too.
My Personal Experience With Hill Sprints
I began doing hill sprints several months ago and am as fit as I’ve been since I stopped playing competitive soccer after college. Within a few weeks of running hills I lost 10 pounds of fat without changing how I eat.
My joints don’t hurt like they used to when I would run sprints on flat ground, even though I am a decade older. The speed at which I recover between sets in the weight room is also improved as well.
Now that you know how great running hills are for your physical and mental fitness, it’s time to learn how to add them to your workouts. Below are a few guidelines for you to follow. Use it as a template to create your own program.
Step 1 – Find A Hill
The best way to find a good hill is to drive around your neighborhood and look for a hill that is at least 40 yards long. The longer the better. The hill should be steep enough so that it is challenging for you to walk up and down. The steeper the better, too.
If you can’t find a good hill this way, Google terms like sledding hills, landfills, and whatever else may work for your neighborhood. You should eventually be able to find something. Steep staircases are an adequate substitute as a last resort. If you’re going to run stairs, try to at least find a set that’s made from wood.
Step 2 – Go To The Hill And Get Ready
Begin your workout with a light warm-up. This will help prepare your body for the brutal workout ahead. I like to warm-up by performing 10-15 minutes of calisthenics and dynamic stretches. This includes arm circles, burpees, high kicks, jumping jacks and squats. Do 5 sets of each exercise for 5-10 reps and you’ll be ready to go.
Step 3 – Time To Run
Before you sprint make sure you have your technique down. Below are several tips to ensure you perform your sprints with proper form:
- Keep your chin up and eyes forward. Don’t look down no matter how tired you get.
- Your chest should be out and shoulders back as you run up the hill.
- Don’t clench your fists. Instead, lightly squeeze your fists or run with hands open.
- Keep your arms bent at a 90-degree angle and move them up and down. Don’t let them cross over your body as you run.
- Pick your knees up high as you run and keep your hips forward. Never move from side to side.
- Push explosively off the balls of your feet with every step. Your heels shouldn’t make contact with the ground.
The first time you run hills I recommend not doing more than 5 sprints at about 75% of your maximum effort. They really are brutal and you don’t want to burn yourself out on the first set. Increase your intensity with every sprint.
Add 1-2 sprints per week until you are performing 20 per workout with maximum effort.
Step 4 – Cool Down
Finish your workout by walking on flat ground until you are able to breath normally. You can then perform 10-15 minutes of static stretching for all of your major muscle groups to keep from getting tight.
When You Should Do Hill Sprints
The best time to perform this workout is after you lift weights. This will keep your strength from being compromised in the weight room. If you can’t do your sprints shortly after you lift weights, do them several hours later or on your day off.
How Often Should You Do Hill Sprints
Start with 2 weekly workouts and increase to 4-5 per week over the course of a few months. Once you can do 20 hill sprints 4-5 times a week you will be in the best shape of your life. Guaranteed.
Making Your Workout More Challenging
Once you can perform 20 hill sprints with good technique it’s time to make the workout more challenging. Below are several ways to do so. Only try one of these at a time. Include more as your conditioning improves.
Add an additional workout later in the week.
- Increase the distance you sprint.
- Decrease the amount of time you rest between eat sprint by running down the hill instead of walking.
- Wear a weighted vest.
- Perform a set of another exercise (i.e. bodyweight squats, kettlebell swings, push ups) before each sprint.
You already know that sprint intervals can burn fat fast (seven times faster than steady-state cardio), but with just a few rounds of hill sprints you can incinerate fat in the time it takes to lace up your shoes. We asked strength coach and author Jason Ferruggia to let us in on his favorite conditioning tool.
“Hill sprints are safer on your legs because of the angle of your body and the shorter stride,” Ferruggia says. There’s also greater loading going uphill, and your lower body and arms learn to contract faster. Don’t worry about lactic acid, either. Increasing training volume by 10–20% per week will improve your lactate threshold, researchers say. Hill sprints have been used by some of the best athletes in the world. NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton’s motto: “You’ve got to beat .”
How to beat the hill
Get aligned: “Strive for high knee lift and use the ankles’ full range of motion; but make sure your foot lands directly underneath you, and land on the ball of it, never the heel,” Ferruggia says.
Stride right: For shorter hills on which you can reach the top in fewer than 30 seconds, keep your strides short, knees high, body upright, and arms pumping at 90° angles. For a 30- to 90-second summit (a medium sprint) use a longer stride.
Breathe out: For high-intensity runs, your breathing must be on point. “Take a deep breath before starting, and slowly let it out in a hissing action as you complete the distance. Keep your abs braced while sprinting to protect your spine.”
30 yards of leg swings: Walk forward, and swing one leg up in front of you, touching it with the opposite hand. Repeat on the other side.
30 yards of walking lunges: Lunge forward with your right leg, and bring your right forearm down until it touches the inside of your right calf. Your left hand will be on the ground for support.
2 sets of 20 ankle hops: With knees locked, use only your ankles/calves to jump up and down in place as fast as possible.
5 sprint warmups: Build intensity from 50% through 90% of your max.
3 reps of 30- to 40-yard sprints: 95% of your max.*
Every week add one sprint, but never go beyond 95% of your maximum effort. * Rest about 60–120 seconds between sprints.
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Hit the streets smartly to shed unwanted pounds in only eight weeks.
What’s the best way to run for weight loss? Answering this question is trickier than you might think. The number of calories you burn through running is determined by how many miles you run. So it would stand to reason that the most effective way to slim down through running is to run a lot. However, when you run a lot your body also wants to eat a lot in order to avoid chronic fatigue or injury. . . and eating a lot is not conducive to weight loss.
In fact, while running may be a great weight-loss activity, it’s not the best overall method. Research has proven the most effective tool for shedding pounds is calorie restriction— that is, eating less. When you’re trying to lose weight you should aim to consume 300 to 500 fewer calories per day than your body uses. If you do this, you will lose weight steadily at a moderate rate—but you will also lack the energy to maintain a heavy running schedule.
The solution is to combine your calorie deficit with a training program designed to keep your metabolic fire burning. Such a program includes three different kinds of workouts. . .
#1 Fat-Burning Runs
Your body burns fat best when you run at a speed that corresponds to approximately 65 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you’re going by feel, this translates to a five out of 10 on the effort-level scale (10 being an all-out effort). The longer these runs last, the higher the rate of fat burning climbs, so push the duration instead of the pace in these workouts. Avoid taking sports drinks or energy gels during fat-burning runs because their carbohydrate content reduces the muscles’ reliance on body fat for fuel.
Related Article: Best Abs Ever in 8 Exercises
#2 Sprint Intervals
Fast running is an excellent tool for weight loss. Not only do you torch the most calories when you sprint, but your body also burns more fat for a longer period of time afterward. Uphill sprinting gets your heart rate soaring, and it’s easier on your joints and muscles than sprinting on flat ground. Our eight-week running for weight loss features sprint interval workouts that call for repeated 30-second uphill runs. These should be hard efforts, but not so hard that you find yourself slowing down before you complete the final interval.
#3 Strength Training
While running melts away excess body fat, strength training burns additional calories and preserves muscle mass. This is important, because when you’re eating 300 to 500 fewer calories than your body uses daily, you are likely to lose muscle along with fat. However, if you supplement your running with a couple of full-body strength workouts each week, all of your weight loss will in fact be fat loss. Strength training may be performed at a gym or in your living room. Focus on bodyweight as well as weight-lifting exercises, such as lunges, squats, deadlifts, pushups, shoulder presses and planks.
Related Article: Recover and Repair With These Post-Workout Foods
This eight-week training plan incorporates the three key workout types and adds an optional once-weekly easy run or cross-training session for those who are seeking faster results. The schedule is progressive, which means that the training load increases from week to week. The exceptions are weeks four and seven, when the training load is cut back to promote recovery.
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fi ts-all plan, so feel free to adjust this one as necessary. If the runs you see here are longer than those you’re used to performing, dial the distance back a bit. On the other hand, if your runs are already longer than 45 minutes (the longest run in week one), then add a little time to some or all of the runs on the schedule.
How many pounds can you expect to lose on this plan? That depends on many individual factors, including your diet and how close you are now to your optimal weight. But we can guarantee, you’ll be in better shape after week eight than you were before week one. Good luck and have fun!
Related Article: The Athlete’s Cleanse
FAT-BURNING RUN: Run for the time indicated at a pace that is 65 percent of your maximum heart rate (if using a monitor) or a fi ve out of 10 on the perceived effort scale, i.e., a comfortable pace.
STRENGTH TRAINING: Perform strength-training exercises, including squats, lunges, pushups, deadlifts, planks and overhead presses for the time indicated.
SPRINT INTERVALS: Perform all intervals on a steep hill or a treadmill set to a 6- to 8-percent incline. Run 10 minutes at an easy pace to warm up. Sprint up the hill for 30 seconds at a very challenging effot. Recover by jogging down the hill (or on a 0-percent incline for two minutes). Complete as many sprints as indicated. Finish the workout with another 10 minutes of easy running.
EASY RUN: Run at an easy pace for 20 to 45 minutes.
REST: Take the day off from exercise. Walk or perform a gentle workout like yoga if you wish.
Related Article: Obstacle Race Training Plan
8-WEEK WEIGHT LOSS RUN PLAN
|1||Fat-Burning Run30 min||Strength Training15 min||Sprint Intervals6 hill sprints||Rest or Easy Run||Strength Training15 min||Fat-Burning Run45 min||Rest|
|2||Fat-Burning Run35 min||Strength Training30 min||Sprint Intervals7 hill sprints||Rest or Easy Run||Strength Training30 min||Fat-Burning Run50 min||Rest|
|3||Fat-Burning Run40 min||Strength Training30 min||Sprint Intervals8 hill sprints||Rest or Easy Run||Strength Training30 min||Fat-Burning Run55 min||Rest|
|4||Fat-Burning Run30 min||Strength Training15 min||Sprint Intervals6 hill sprints||Rest or Easy Run||Strength Training15 min||Fat-Burning Run45 min||Rest|
|5||Fat-Burning Run45 min||Strength Training45 min||Sprint Intervals9 hill sprints||Rest or Easy Run||Strength Training30 min||Fat-Burning Run60 min||Rest|
|6||Fat-Burning Run50 min||Strength Training45 min||Sprint Intervals10 hill sprints||Rest or Easy Run||Strength Training45 min||Fat-Burning Run65 min||Rest|
|7||Fat-Burning Run40 min||Strength Training30 min||Sprint Intervals7 hill sprints||Rest or Easy Run||Strength Training30 min||Fat-Burning Run50 min||Rest|
|8||Fat-Burning Run55 min||Strength Training45 min||Sprint Intervals12 hill sprints||Rest or Easy Run||Strength Training45 min||Fat-Burning Run70 min||Rest|
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Hill Running: 5 Reasons to Love the Incline
I know that I should embrace the incline while I’m running, but most of the time the thought of running hills and trudging along an angled treadmill fills me with unease. The more I think about it, though, the more I realize I should be loving the hills – and why you should, too. Here’s why:
- You’ll burn more calories. There’s a pretty big difference between a totally flat treadmill and one with a five percent incline – almost 100 calories in difference. Running uphill can burn major calories, and anything helps, so the next time you’re on a run, try upping the incline on your treadmill a little bit, or finding a not-quite-flat route.
- They help prevent shin splints. Running on flat or downhill ground can make you more susceptible to painful shin splints by putting pressure on your shinbones, but running uphill can alleviate that stress (just make sure you’re careful when you’re on your way down!)
More benefits of hill running after the break.
- You’ll increase your endurance. Spend a few weeks hill training and the next time you go on your regular route, you’ll be amazed at how easy it’s become. Start by gradually increasing the inclines on your run up every few weeks until even the steepest hills are no match for your swift feet.
- You’ll increase your speed. Not only is running uphill great for your stamina, but it’s also great for building leg muscles, which helps with your speed. Try this tip: run uphill at full intensity, 10 seconds at a time, to help build leg strength.
- Downhill does it, too. Downhill running engages your lower abs and works your quads. Keep the right form with these tips for running correctly downhill.
Ready to start? Read these tips on how to cross train and gradually tackle those hills during your runs. And make sure you run correctly to prevent injury by following these tips for proper uphill running form.
More on running hills from FitSugar:
Two Reasons to Run Uphill and Three Reasons to Get You to the Top
5 Moves to Make Running Hills a Breeze
For daily fitness tips follow FitSugar on Facebook and Twitter
- By FitSugar
Speed training: how hill running will make an athlete faster
I’m a big advocate of hill training, and most athletes – especially those who have reaped the rewards of running on hills – don’t question why. Occasionally, though, someone asks me what is really so great about this form of training. Sometimes they ask which leg muscles benefit most from hill running. Another popular question is: ‘How can running on hills make you a faster runner on flat surfaces?’
These questions can’t be answered simply. To really understand how hills work to improve running capacity, you need first to understand that the movement of the human body during running is similar to the bouncing of a ball. Running involves a bouncy gait in which energy is absorbed passively by muscles and tendons in a leg whenever a foot hits the ground, so that the body can be momentarily slowed and lowered.
Much of that absorbed energy is then used to lift and accelerate the body during the latter part of footstrike, so that toe-off can be accomplished and an athlete can ‘fly’ through the air towards an eventual collision of the other foot with the ground. Such flight can be considered a ‘budget special’, since it is accomplished at low cost; that is to say, the energy stored when the foot strikes the ground furnishes the majority of the propulsive force necessary for the ensuing flight. Mechanically, muscles and tendons stretched during impact simply recoil like rubber bands – without additional metabolic cost – to push the body upwards and forwards.
A ball behaves in the same sort of way: when a ball hits the ground, its surface deforms (just as the human leg does by flexing at the ankle, knee and hip), absorbing energy in the process. As this deformation occurs, the ball decelerates and its centre of mass moves lower – the precise actions of the human body during the initial stage of footstrike. Of course, the ball’s absorbed energy is released as its surface springs elastically back to its normal configuration, and the resulting push on the ground lifts and accelerates it. Like the running human body, the ball flies upwards and forwards toward its next impact with the ground.
Naturally, the human body also functions in ways balls never even dream about! Specifically, when the human foot is on the ground during running, some leg and trunk muscles must actively expend energy to provide the force necessary to support the body, keeping it upright in an efficient running posture; a ball’s ‘posture’, on the other hand, is maintained without cost – through internal air pressure and the ruggedness of its ‘shell’.
Interestingly, the supportive role played by muscles when the foot is on the ground is usually the result of isometric – or nearly isometric – muscle actions. These are the actions in which muscles exert force without actually shortening. If you have trouble picturing this process, think about what would happen if you placed your hands under a 600lb rock and tried to lift it from the ground; the muscles of your arms and legs would produce tremendous amounts of force, but they would not shorten since the rock would not move!
Isometric actions in running
It might seem odd that isometric – or nearly isometric – actions play such a key role during running, given the dynamic nature of the activity. However, think for a moment about the movement of your trunk as you run: if all is going well and you are running efficiently, your trunk – or upper body – will remain in a fairly stable position as you move; if it waggled back and forth precipitously, you would be a very inefficient runner. This relative motionlessness of the trunk is a result of isometric contractions of your abdominal and low back muscles; if those muscles’ actions were concentric (ie involving actual shortening), your trunk would flap around a lot, pulled one way by the abs and the other by the sinews of the lower back.
This knowledge that forward movement is accomplished mainly by storing and then releasing the energy of impact, while stability is attained via isometric muscular contractions, can be used to help athletes who want to enhance their running economy – ie run more efficiently. Such athletes should try to minimise their cost of producing force as they run by letting the stretch and recoil of tendon and muscle ‘springs’ do even more of the work needed to bounce their bodies forward; at the same time, they should not waste too much energy keeping their bodies stable. Furthermore, as running speed increases, and the amount of work carried out per step rises in consequence, these runners should be able to let ‘recovery energy’ (the non-costly ‘recoil’ energy) shoulder an increasing proportion of the required work, while actual muscular work is limited.
Comparing athletes with turkeys
To see if this is what efficient athletes actually do, we must look at – turkeys! Recently, the researcher Peter Weyand and colleagues at Harvard and Northeastern Universities implanted sonomicrometre crystals in the calf muscles of turkeys to measure the changes in muscle fibre length during running. They also put strain gauges in the turkeys’ calf-muscle tendons to measure muscular force production during movement. The turkeys’ gait patterns were then analysed as the gobblers cruised at velocities of up to four metres per second (about 6:42 per mile pace) both on level ground and up 6deg. and 12deg. inclines (1).
When the turkeys were on the level, large changes in calf-muscle length occurred only during the swing phase of the gait cycle – when the relevant foot was off the ground; the calf muscle elongated by about 33% as the leg swung forward but only 7% when the foot was on the ground. As you can see, the calf muscle was preparing for its spring-back (energy-recovery) function during forward swing and was operating more isometrically and supportively when the foot was in its ground-contact stage.
The force produced by the calf muscle during swing acts to decelerate the foot during ankle flexion and then accelerate the foot towards the ground as the ankle extends. Most of this force was produced passively in the turkeys (ie without energy expenditure) because of the spring-like behaviour of the calf muscle as it was stretched beyond resting length during forward swing. As a result, electromyographic (EMG) activity (which shows the extent of active muscle contraction) in the calf during swing was less than 5% of EMG activity during the stance phase of the gait cycle – for all running velocities!
During stance, the calf-muscles’ actual force production was 10-20 times greater than during swing, but the muscles shortened by very little; in fact, the maximum shortening was 6.6% of resting length at the top running speed. As one might hope, recovery energy provided more than 60% of the work of the calf muscle and its tendon, and recovery work’s contribution to the overall work ‘pie’ increased as running speed advanced. The calf muscles were indeed operating efficiently!
With all this in mind, we can now turn our attention to what happens when running is carried out on an inclined surface. Bear in mind that recovery energy can only give back energy which is stored when a foot hits the ground. When an individual runs up a hill, there is an increase in the potential energy of the body with each step. This augmentation of potential energy clearly cannot come from recovery energy (which preserves but does not add energy) and must therefore be furnished by active muscular work. Indeed, the net calf-muscle work per step increased from near zero on the flat to about 3 Joules/kg at 6deg. and nearly 6 Joules/kilogram at 12deg.. Did this extra work come from the isometric, stabilising actions of the muscles?
As you think about this, remember that the muscular force required to support and coordinate the body is relatively independent of incline. The mass of your body does not change as you climb a hill, and therefore support forces change little, if at all. Thus, almost all of the increase in muscular work associated with running up inclines must occur as a result of increased muscle shortening.
Returning to our friends the turkeys, whenever they ran on a 12deg. incline their calf muscles were appreciably longer during the early stage of footstrike than when running on a flat surface. The same thing happens to you when you run on a hill; the inclination of the hill thwarts plantar (downward) flexion of your ankles prior to impact and dorsiflexes your ankles for you as your feet hit the ground, keeping your calf muscles stretched. The result is that your over-stretched calf muscles must shorten more during the stance phase of incline running in preparation for toe-off than is necessary when running on the flat.
Hill running is not anti-neural
This increased shortening greatly magnifies the net work per step performed by the calf muscles, and the same magnification of work output would occur in the hamstrings. The increase in muscular work associated with incline running is linked with the activation of a greater number of calf-muscle fibres. In fact, EMG data on the turkeys suggested that running up a 12deg. slope required three times the volume of calf-muscle fibres than level running at the same speed. Interestingly enough, stance time did not increase during incline running, which indicates that the average rate of shortening of the calf muscle actually increased with inclination. This is important, since critics of hill running have argued that it is ‘anti-neural’ – ie that it slows down muscular movement and the rate at which muscles are recruited by the nervous system. The turkey data show that, at a specific speed, crucial running muscles like those of the calves actually contract more quickly on hills than they do on flat ground.
You might think that the young turks’ calf muscles produced more force in order to drive their bodies up the 12deg. ‘hills’ – especially since three times the volume of calf-muscle cells were involved per step. Far from it: their calves actually produced the same amount of force at 12deg. as they had on the level! If this seems surprising to you, you must have forgotten about the time-honoured force-velocity properties of muscles: as the velocity of muscle contraction increases, force production decreases. If this concept is a little wild for you, just think how much more quickly you can lift a barbell with 10lb attached than one with 100lb! Getting back to the turkeys’ calves, they were shortening more rapidly on hills, and this rapid shortening balanced the recruitment of extra muscle fibres, keeping force production constant. The increased work required for hill climbing was accomplished not via greater force production but via faster, longer contractions of the calves.
If this seems confusing as well, remember that muscular work equals force times distance (W = F X d). The Harvard-Northeastern scientists found that calf-muscle work per step increased on 12deg. hills, even though force (F) remained unchanged. What did change, of course, was d – the distance moved by (the change in length accomplished by) the calf muscle in its contractions during footstrike. With F unchanged and d spiked, work (W) increased significantly.
So, the calf muscles did more work by moving a greater distance during footstrike. In other words, on hills the calf muscles were learning to contract more quickly when the foot was on the ground. The calf muscles were not learning to generate more force – but to generate work at a higher rate. In short, they were learning to become more powerful. (Power is just work divided by time; in our turkey case, time – footstrike time – stayed the same, but work increased dramatically, causing power output to rise.)
On flat ground, this ability of the calf muscles to work more powerfully during footstrike should translate into shorter footstrike times and higher running speeds. Why shorter footstrike times? With the calf muscles reacting at a higher rate, the amount of work necessary to sustain a particular velocity could be performed in a shorter period of time, allowing toe-off to occur more rapidly. Alternatively, speed of contraction could be slowed but recruitment of ‘extra’ calf-muscle cells could be retained, enhancing force production and thus stride length. Naturally, the footstrike and stride-length pay-offs might occur simultaneously.
On hills, key muscles like the calves learn to sustain force at high contraction speeds. This defies the classic muscle force-velocity relationship principle, which states that muscles exert less force as their speed of action increases. Muscles accomplish this feat by recruiting extra fibres into action (three times as many in this study), which means that hill running has a very broad strengthening effect in addition to its ability to boost power. That’s an exciting aspect of hill training, and it is why the discipline is so fantastically useful for athletes who depend on high running speeds to do well in their sports. Football players, basketballers, rugby scrummers, cricket batsmen and fielders, and even runners – take note!
Practical hill training
Athletes can use hill training throughout the year, but it is best to delay emphasising it until you have already completed a circuit-training base to build overall body strength and coordination and until you have also become very familiar with running-specific strength training which mimics the movements required for running. (Such training would include one-leg squats, lunges, bicycle leg swings, one-leg heel raises, runners’ poses, etc.) This progression will help to ensure that hill work does not increase the risk of injury and that hills are run with a high degree of coordination and at decent intensities. During a hill-emphasis period, hill workouts can be completed 2-3 times a week.
Here’s a selection of our hill-session favourites:
1. Warm up by jogging easily for 10-15 minutes, and then carry out repeats on a hill with an incline of about 10% (one foot of elevation for every 10 feet of horizontal movement) and a length of at least 50m (anything between 200 and 800m would be ideal). Run at an intensity that feels rougher than 5k racing on your ascents, maintaining a rapid stride rate as you climb. Recover by jogging easily back to the bottom (for very steep slopes or distances over 600m, you’ll need someone to taxi you down in a car or on a bike) and surge up again as soon as you feel ready. Start with about four reps for your first session (more if the hill is really short) and gradually increase the number of reps over time. If you can’t find a 10% slope, you’ll simply have to use a treadmill for this workout.
2. On a more modest hill (about 2-3% incline), run aggressively for 1,000-1,600m, trying to stay as close as possible to 10k race pace, then recover by jogging back to your starting point. Start with just two reps, building up to four as your power and overall fitness increase. Make sure you maintain your usual rapid stride rate. If a hill like this is unavailable, go for a treadmill workout consisting of three-minute work intervals at 10k pace on a 3% incline, with three-minute jog recoveries. In this case, start with four reps and build.
3. Over very hilly terrain, ramble for about an hour or so, working very hard on all ascents and recovering by going easy on the downslopes and/or flat areas in between hills.
4. To complete a very special hill workout which we call ‘Shane’s mill-hill tempo run’, begin by jogging very easily on a treadmill for about 10 minutes. Once you are feeling loose and ready to work, set the treadmill inclination at 4%. For your first stab at this workout, simply set the treadmill speed at a level which permits you to work fairly comfortably. The workout then proceeds – without break – as follows:
Five minutes at 4%
10 minutes at 5%
l0 minutes at 6.5%
10 minutes at 7.5%.
This will give you 35 minutes of running ‘under pressure’, with the treadmill inclinations within the rugged range of 4-7.5%. Naturally, you should then cool down with 10 minutes or so of easy jogging.
As mentioned, choose an apparently easy pace for your first stab at this latter workout. If you can complete the 35 minutes without excessive discomfort, up the treadmill speed by 0.5mph for your next session, which you should aim to complete about a week later. For example, if you chose 7mph for your first session and things went pretty well, step up to 7.5mph for the next effort, and so on. Out of our four recommended sessions, this last is actually our favourite. It is similar to the workouts used by top Kenyan runners when ‘sharpening’ themselves before their most-important competitions. (The Kenyans don’t use treadmills, though, preferring to use the natural Kenyan topography to create situations in which continuous climbing is necessary.) As well as boosting strength and power, this session will raise your VO2max and lactate threshold quite convincingly. Athletes who use it achieve quite high heart rates – even above those achieved during interval and fartlek sessions – for extended periods of time.
If you want to be a more powerful athlete, hill training can be an extremely valuable training asset. Use the workouts described above a couple of times a week for five weeks-or-so, move into a programme of ‘explosive’ training for another five weeks, and you will emerge with a higher max running velocity and greater overall fitness. These enhanced capacities should, in turn, translate into improved performances on pitch court or track.
You might think the most effective way to train to sprint faster is to run uphill. Running uphill taxes your muscles more than running on a flat surface, so they grow stronger in response to the regular, vigorous exercise. But a more effective way to increase your running speed is to train on a downhill slope.
The problem with uphill training is that it strengthens your muscles, but it doesn’t do much for your coordination. Running fast isn’t only about leg power. You also need to have quick steps, or a fast stride rate. If you’ve ever tried to travel down a steep slope, you’ve probably noticed how difficult it is to move quickly without losing your balance. That’s because your legs can’t handle the fast stride rate.
Sprinting downhill develops your coordination by forcing your legs to learn how to handle high-speed travel. At first, you’ll have difficulty keeping your balance, but over time your coordination will improve in response to the increased stride rate. Consequently, your running speed on horizontal surfaces will increase because your peak stride rate will be more rapid.
The question of what degree slope you should use for your downhill training isn’t settled. A slope of 5.8 degrees and a total running distance of 40 yards might be optimal, according to a study that appeared in the March 2006 issue of the “International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance.” The author of the study says the prevailing recommendation that calls for a slope of 3 degrees might not be as effective. For beginners, the most effective approach might be to find a slope gentle enough to force you to exceed your normal stride rate but not so steep that you pitch forward and risk injury.
Another study found that a combination of uphill and downhill training is the most effective way to improve running speed, according to a November 2006 issue of the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.” The researchers found that after six weeks of training, participants who performed a combination of uphill and downhill training improved their running speed by 3.5 percent, while those who participated in downhill training alone improved their running speed by only 1.1 percent. The authors conclude that the combination of training types might be “significantly more effective” than either one alone.
Hill Running Benefits, Strategies, Tips, And Racing Hills
Jan 20, 2020 Author: Lauren Keating
Finding the motivation to go for a run is sometimes an uphill climb in itself. Then throw a monster of an incline into the mix on a route and the runner immediately notices their feet slow to a shuffle and their heart rate increase as it is going to burst right out of their chest. The higher we get, the more we feel like we are being weighed down. It’s almost as if the hill wants us to fail—to just give up and walk. Or worse, avoid it altogether and stick to the flat courses. But running hills is important. There are many benefits of running hills and lots of tips and tricks to getting over running uphill.
Benefits of Running Hills
There are many benefits of running hills. These include building endurance, increases strength, improves form and boosts speed and power. Think of running hills as resistance training since the quads, calves, hamstrings, and glutes are working more than if the runner was on flat ground. Hills make the body stronger.
It also toughens the mind, too. It takes endurance and stamina to make it along rolling hills or a few big ones. But it takes mental grit to be able to keep pushing through running uphill. And the reward pays off when competing in a long distance race, hills or not. Knowing a runner can tackle that hill is a metaphor for training and getting through tough runs in general.
Photo by Jesse Bowser on Unsplash.
Running hills also makes a better runner. It’s impossible to always run on flat ground, and we should want to be a well-rounded runner who can take on any terrain. The best benefit of running hills, especially hill repeats, is the increase in speed the runner gains. Hill repeats are running up a hill as fast as one can and the recovering downhill then repeating this a few times.
Other benefits include preventing injuries like shin splints since there is less pressure on the shinbones when going uphill. Not to mention running hills means the runner burns more calories. This is a great incentive for those looking to lose weight by running.
How To Run Hills
Running with full intensity for 10 seconds at a time while running uphill results in faster speed and endurance. Going uphill means the runner has better form since they are forced to be on the balls of the feet and not heel strike. But the runner should pay attention to proper form when running uphill.
Start by focusing on where the eyes graze. Don’t look down. Look about 30 meters in front. This helps to make sure oxygen is begin inhaled to prevent cramping or getting out of breath. It also makes the body stand up straight. Pump the arms and lean forward. Run leaning with the hips as if someone was pulling a rope that is tied around the waist. Make sure the chest is sticking out and open.
Beginners should not focus on speed and just worry about climbing the hill. Do not look at pace. Instead, pay attention to the effort. Engage the core and lift each knee off the hill, not into it. A good strategy is to start on a flat ground and build the run up to race pace or the normal average pace of a run. Keep that pace even when approaching the hill. It’s natural that the pace slows, but push on ahead, focusing on keeping the same effort. Then get ready for the downhill.
Lean forward with the hips but keep the core strong and don’t lean in too much. Widen then stride, but not too much. Gravity naturally does this for the runner. Land on the mid-foot and keep that same effort pace.
Invest in good and stable running gear. So, this basically means good running socks, durable running shoes, the right running apparel for all occasions.
How Often To Run Hills
Those who are just looking to increase speed or wanting to be stronger start by incorporating a hilly course or hill repeats into at least one of their runs each week. Those training for a race that includes hills should focus on mastering running hills.
For these runners, start off with a moderate size hill and include hill sprints into one of the weekday runs and their long run. A good strategy for the weekday shorter run is to do 10-second hill sprints followed by recovery and repeat for the during of the run. The longer hilly run should be steady.
As training progresses, increase the number of hill repeats and increase the steepness of the hill to tackle on more of an incline.
Photo by Matt Duncan on Unsplash.
Running A Hilly Race
Training hills are crucial to being able to complete a race with hills. Properly training and building up leg muscle strength is the most important thing.
Besides running hill repeats, strength the legs in other ways such as regularly taking a spin class and doing weighted exercises like squats with weights.
One race day, run smart. This means running up the hill the same way as in training runs. Run with steady effort and don’t think about pace. If the runner needs to check their watch, it’s okay to be up to a minute slower. Just hold that the same effort while going up and over the hill, the body won’t lose energy and feel as tired as if trying to go full force.
Time lost going uphill is often gained back when running downhill. Remember when it gets tough that what goes up must come back down. Push through the uphill and look forward to the downhill.
The last tip is to practice the course if this is an option. Don’t go into the race blind if a practice run can be done. Those who are traveling out of state for the race should look up the overall elevation of the course and find a route near them where they can practice similar conditions.
Just remember to have fun and that running a hilly race is a greater challenge than running those last and fast courses.
- How To Become A Faster Runner, Lauren Keating, Rockay.
- The Benefits of Hill Running, Christine Luff, Very Well Fit.
- 4 Simple Form Tweaks That Make Running Hills Easier, Coach Jeff, Runners Connect.
- How to Run a Hilly Course, Steve Gonser PT, DPT , Run Smart Online.
Ten seconds. That’s all the time it takes to become a faster runner.
Too good to be true? Not according to Brad Hudson, the coach of such distance stars as Dathan Ritzenhein and Jorge Torres. All you have to do is run those 10 seconds uphill–as fast as you can. “There’s nothing better for developing speed and muscle power,” says Hudson.
When Hudson, a 1991 and ’93 world championship competitor in the marathon, started coaching a few years back, he looked at successful programs and found they all had one thing in common: hills. And as he sifted through research, he noted that even a small amount of hill work could yield big results: a jump in leg strength, running economy–how efficiently your body uses oxygen–and aerobic capacity. “I saw the science, and then I saw the results in my athletes,” says Hudson.
One of those athletes, James Carney, improved his 10-K personal best last spring to 27:43 after incorporating Hudson’s hill training into his routine. Torres credits hill work for putting him in contention for the 2008 U.S. Olympic team for the 10,000 meters. And Ritzenhein, who ran 2:14:01 last year in his debut marathon, believes hills have made him less injury-prone.
Of course, Hudson’s athletes are professional runners, so short sprints are only part of their hill routine But for the rest of us, 10-second hill repeats are the most efficient way to build year-round strength and speed.
Hit the hill, but make it fast and short, and you get the maximum amount of training effect with the minimum amount of injury risk. “The best way to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers is to run at max intensity,” says Hudson. “The best way to build leg strength is hill running. So we run all-out up a steep hill. But we keep it to 10 seconds to avoid producing lactate and becoming fatigued.” Running no more than 10-second repeats also reduces injury risk by limiting your fast-running time. And hills by their nature lessen the risk of injury because the slope shortens the distance you have to “fall” or land, reducing impact. “Studies of sprinting uphill show that the muscles are in constant ‘overload’ and the nervous system is firing hard,” says Hudson. “It’s the same speed benefit as track sprints, but safer.”
The fast pace builds speed, but it’s the hill that provides the strength benefit. Running up an incline places the same demand on your muscles as weight training–your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves must “lift” you up the slope–but they’re more specific to running. And just as with plyometrics (jump drills), the “explosive” action of uphill sprints improves elasticity in your muscles and tendons, which allows you to spring quickly into action after landing.
To develop leg strength throughout the year, Hudson’s runners do short sprints on a hill that is between a six to 10 percent grade. They tack these surges onto the end of two easy runs a week. At the start of the season, they’ll log just two 10-second repeats. The next week they’ll do three. Once they reach eight, they cut back to doing them once a week. The first repeat is done at a fast pace, the rest at top speed. Each repeat is followed by at least two minutes of recovery, which includes walking downhill backward to keep pressure off the knees. “They’re not easy to do,” says Hudson. “But the pain’s gone in a second or two.” And you’re left with stronger, faster legs.
Marc Bloom Marc Bloom’s high school cross-country rankings have played an influential role in the sport for more than 20 years and led to the creation of many major events, including Nike Cross Nationals and the Great American Cross Country Festival.
Hills training with unbelievable benefits for runners
It seems that a lot of runners often view hill training as the enemy, hills are challenging and tough. They break your regular rhythm and make you harder to run a fast pace, all with a tremendous strain on your body afterwards. I also tend to agree, however If you live in mountainous areas and don’t have many options other than hill training, you should read this article as it may provides some interesting information which not many people actually realize about hill running.
The unbelievable benefits which hill training bring to runners.
- Today, most runners understand the importance of combining strength training with running instead of strength-specific work in the gyms, through squats, arm extensions or leg and shoulder presses which are done in isolation of running, focusing on individual joints as well as only small sets of muscles. Whereas, hill training forces the muscles in your legs, hips, feet and ankles to act in a coordinated rhythm. Plus, during uphill sections your muscles must work harder as you will also have to overcome gravity in order to get up the hill. Thanks to regular practice, you can get more power, improving the length and speed of your stride.
- According to research, runners that train on hills often have higher aerobic enzyme concentrations in their quadricep muscles, permitting your muscles to perform at high intensity for longer periods without tiredness in comparison to runners who train on flat terrain. This Heightened aerobic power improves your speed through accelerating each leg forward more quickly as you run, while also improving knee lift. In addition, runners who practice hill training are also shown to be lees likely to lose fitness, even when they take lots of time off from training, as opposed to those who run on flat roads.
- Different types of hill workouts bring different benefits. For example:
- Steep Hill Sprint is to run for 10-15 seconds up a steep hill at maximum effort. This type is designed to increase maximal stroke volume in the heart as well as improve and activate the function of the neuromuscular system.
- Long hill repeat is the more popular type of hill training, which many runners practice to improve their hill running performance. These types of hill running are really great for improving VO2max and enhancing muscle strength.
- If you want to improve your ability to overcome hills on race day, a great way is to incorporate rolling hills into your long runs. Because combining rolling hills into your runs will provide the specific stimulus to your physiological and muscle systems, which may be faced on race day.
In short, running hills is good for both your body and your running ability. Hill training helps to increase leg-muscle strength,
improve stride length and speed and develop the cardiovascular system. In only six weeks of hard hill training, you can expect a significant improvement in your muscle speed and power.
If done right, you can even find added joy in your running life. Here is a little advise which has worked to help me fall in love with running hills. Running uphill and downhill are very important in this type of workout. There are some simple forms that can save you energy and help you become familiar with this exercise with greater ease.
(1) Keep your chest up and open: chest straight and open with a slight lean forward at a hip, not the stomach.
(2) Hold your eyes and head up, looking about 30 meters in front of you. Your arms should swing straight and back with a 90-degree angle at the elbow, not across your body.
(3) High knee drive off the hill, not into the hill. Remember to land on the ball of your foot in order to spring up the hills.
(4) Plantar flex the ankle for maximum power when pushing off the ground: Paying attention to plantar flexion could help you to save a lot of energy, getting up the hill faster and without wasting lots of energy.
Even though downhill running doesn’t require as much effort as running uphill, having the right downhill technique will still make a big difference to your performance.
1. Have a slight lean (Don’t overdo the lean) forward at the hips to take advantage of the downhill. You just need tilt lightly to benefit from gravity.
2. Relax your arms and only move slightly forward and back. Don’t swing them to the sides, because this will waste your energy. Like running uphill, keep your head and your eyes up, look forward.
3. Land on ground at midfoot to maintain speed while still staying in the control, just slightly in front of your pelvis. It is not good to extend your leg too much because this will make you land on your heel, which is likely as a breaking motion.
4. Stride length should be naturally extended when running downhill. You don’t have to pay much attention on this because the grade of the hill and the pace when you run downhill will do this naturally for you.
Above are some benefits to hill workouts as well as some simple form for running up or down hills effectively, especially for those who want to start with this kind of training.