Ten years ago I hated running hills, I mean really hated them. Flick forward to now and I positively enjoy beasting myself up an incline. What happened? Let me share my three not so secret secrets. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone….
Okay so by now the words TOTAL and WEIRDO may have popped into your head. But when it comes to chugging up hills and loving it there are three main things: 1) Set the right pace for you, not everyone else, just YOU; 2) Don’t beat yourself up, be easy on yourself man; and 3) You gotta find that sweet sweet groove.
Here’s more on these rad tips; this info will help you figure out your own perfect pace for hills. Oh so much awesomeness.
1. TWEAK YOUR SPEED
Get your speed wrong and you’ll either self-destruct halfway up or you’ll get to the top and kick yourself for not putting more effort in. Okay so maybe that last reason doesn’t happen much on a normal run, but in a race scenario you’ll probably want to think you pushed your limits somewhat. Yes?
Knowing how hard to push and how long for is essentially what pacing’s all about. And I’m afraid there’s no other way of finding this out then getting out in those hills and finding those limits of yours running up an incline or two (see my TOP training session tip below).
In the real world as you hit an incline it’s more than likely your running speed will start to slow. If you tried to stay at the same speedy pace you were running just now on the flat in all likelihood you’ll overcook it and implode. So quite naturally you’ll want to ease off this pace, then the trick after this is to frequently ask yourself “Is this new slower pace still too high?” and if you answer “Yes” take steps to ease that pace a little more.
When running with a pack or in a race situation check the urge to stay on the heels of other runners at the door. Especially if these runners are haring up the hill at speed you feel totally uncomfortable with. Drop to the pace you feel right for you. You never know, you may end up overtaking them further up :)
2. CONSISTENT EFFORT IS KEY
Tear your eyes away from your GPS watch’s pace function, and USE THE FORCE LUKE. Yes it’s time to start using your own effort level as a guide and not that mile/min or km/min pace figure on your watch.
With hills, consistency in effort is key. Decide on your speed based on maintaining a constant effort/intensity level. Ideally this effort level would be similar to what you were holding running on the flat before you hit the hill. Judge that effort level and then try and slow you speed on the inclines - even walk if you need to - or speed up on the flatter bits to maintain it.
Same same for downhills. As you top out on a hill instead of slowing - or worse stopping dead - maintain that same effort level by increasing your speed straight onto the downhill section, where you’ll probably want to speed up even more.
3. IT'S ALL IN THE MIND
Running uphill is as much a mental battle as it is a physical battle. Let’s seek out that magical mind state where you feel at one with the run. Why this is getting spiritual isn’t it? Ommmmm…
When you hit that groove you’ll feel a rhythm, you’ll start to focus less on niggles, discomfort and wanting to get to the top and getting it over with, but your strength and ability to keep flowing up that hill.
In all honesty if you successfully managed to both tweak your pace and keep effort consistent then you’ll find your breathing automatically finding a rhythm and before you’ll know it you’ll be in that groove of yours.
ROB'S TOP HILL PACE TRAINING SESSION
A neat session for finding your own pace and effort levels is to pop out and run a few “hill intervals” or “hill reps”. And it goes a little something like this…
- Start with a nice easy 10 min jog to your favourite hill to warm-up
- Now run up that hill - or a timed section if it’s a big hill - at an easy consistent pace and assess your effort level, jog or walk back down easy to recover
- Repeat the hill at a different faster pace to see what gives and how you feel
- Repeat more times, two or 10 it’s up to you and depends really on the size of the hill, your fitness level and/or how hard you feel like beasting yourself
- Finish with the same easy 10 min route back to recover