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  • Writer's pictureTom McAra

How To Run Hills - Steph's Top Tips

How to run hills

I love running uphill but I think I’m in the minority … many runners are intimidated by hills and so tend to avoid them.  I seriously love hills, so for those of you who are less enthusiastic about slogging up a vicious incline I’m going to try and persuade you of the benefits and the fun – remember if you go up, you have to come down!  Here are some great reasons to get running up (and down) hills.


For me variety is definitely the spice of running, and hills are great for adding this variety.  Running on flat even surfaces all the time can be pretty dull with little to think about other than your pace. But once you head for the hills you stop worrying about your pace and concentrate on getting to the top! The variation prevents physical and mental boredom, and the miles will fly by.

Improve Strength and Speed

Running uphill is great strength training for your legs and uses the same muscles you use when sprinting, so doing hill reps will increase your flat speed.  Your running economy will also improve as you mix up your training.  Running uphill is hard work, so it’s easy to add intensity into a run if hills are involved.

Avoid Injury

Hill sessions place less stress on the body than flat speed work, so they are a fantastic way to add intensity without risk of injury.  They are particularly good to include when you are building mileage but also want to maintain your strength and speed.


Having made it to the top you have the bonus of some downhill, and with gravity on your side you can enjoy a bit of speed for less effort.  Although running downhill feels easy, aerobically it is hard work for your leg muscles.  Gentle descents are great for practising fast leg turnover without the aerobic stress.

Boost Confidence

Nothing beats the buzz of running to the top of a hill, especially one you used to avoid or walk up.  Having trained in the hills will give you the confidence to tackle them when you encounter hills in a race, and you will probably find yourself powering past people.

Here are 3 simple sessions to try incorporating into your training plan:

• Hill sprints

After an easy run, do between 8-10x 10sec sprints uphill with a couple minutes rest between efforts.

• Hill reps

There are many different hill rep sessions to try but all follow the basic principle of running fast uphill for a short time, followed by a rest.  These can be incorporated into a steady run or done as a session on their own.  After a good warm-up, do 8-10x 1min hard runs uphill, followed by 1min rest or an easy jog back to the start.  As you progress you can increase the number of reps or the duration of the efforts.

• Hilly long and tempo runs

Including hills in your long and tempo runs will provide all the physiological benefits mentioned such as improved strength, speed and running economy while also providing variety and reducing your risk of injury.  Remember, if you’re heading into the hills for a long run be prepared for changes in the weather with warm clothes, wind- and waterproof body cover and spare food.  There are some fantastic running backpacks available, so no need to skimp on the kit – and just think of the extra weight as additional strength training!

With the Illuminator race at the end of October it’s not too late to start incorporating hills into your weekly training plan, and by race day you will have the confidence to power up those nasty hills.

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