Living and training in the hills of West Virginia has given me ample practice at running uphill. Hopefully these tips will help you to crush some hills on your trails.
- Walk early and often
This sounds counter-intuitive but hear me out. I come from a cross country background and I’ll admit that, at first, walking sounded like admitting defeat. But the truth is that walking will save your legs for later miles. How do you know when you should start walking? Listen to your breathing. As you begin to work harder up a hill, your heart rate increases and your breathing becomes more labored. This is a sign that you are switching from aerobic to anaerobic respiration, which is less energy efficient. Start walking when this happens and continue to walk until you reach the top of the hill or your breathing and heart rate slows down again.
- Lean into the hill
Leaning forward slightly into the hill keeps your center of gravity over your feet and will use less energy than if you were standing straight up. You can do this while running and power hiking.
- Master the power hike
The power hike is a useful tool when climbing steep terrain. Essentially it is fast hiking but you are pushing hard off each foot and taking large strides. When I hike, I like to use my hands to push down on my quads, incorporating some of my upper body strength into each step. I’m still paying attention to my breathing to make sure I’m not pushing too hard.
Often times when I’m hiking uphill and my breathing is slower I’ll use that opportunity to take in some nutrition (i.e. energy bar, potatoes, chips, gummies, etc, anything I have to chew a lot) or put away my rain jacket or gloves. You can use the slower pace and less jostling around to take care of these things that can sometimes be harder to do while running.
Remember “Ultrarunning isn’t about who goes the fastest, It’s about who can go the slowest the least.” Happy hill running 🙂