March 6, 2013

Tips for running hills

Living in super-duper flat Florida, I don’t know much about running hills. When I say “I don’t know much,” I basically mean I know absolutely nothing about it. Every training route I run and almost every race I run has no discernible hill.  

Until this race. And, I was petrified of it. Never running hills combined with basically knowing absolutely nothing about it and being faced with two gigantic bridges that I had to run over twice was scary. But, I actually made it up and over them and loved it.  

Of course, I’m probably lucky I did this without getting hurt and loving it as much as I did. Why?
In our training for the Iron Girl Half Marathon (which involves the same gigantic bridges), our coach gave us some tips for running uphill and downhill. Surprisingly, I followed all of the uphill running tips without even knowing them. Score!  

Tips on running uphill
  • Lean into the hill 
  • Shorten your stride 
  • Increase your cadence 
  • Look forward, not up the hill 
  • Use your arms

But, the downhill tips are a different story. 

I wasn’t even worried about the downhill. I just thought I needed to control my speed by leaning backward. I knew you could get injured running downhill, and I just figured it was from going too fast. Turns out, I was wrong.

Tips on running downhill
  • Lean forward, getting the body over the hips and ankles 
  • Use your arms any way necessary (to help have a sense of balance) 
  • Have a light touch with the foot 
  • Have a higher cadence

It's just natural for me to lean backward to "brake" myself while running down a hill. This is exactly what I shouldn't be doing (hello, quad injuries waiting to happen). So, I'm retraining myself to lean forward. Instead of fighting momentum, I'm going to give into gravity and let it take me downhill. Seems so wrong, but it's right.

Do you follow these tips when running hills? What works for you? Do you have the urge to "brake" while running downhill?


  1. Nice tips! I think it's just natural to keep control of your pace and "brake" on a down hill. I am definitely going to give this a try whenever I have a hill on my next run!

  2. I agree with all of your lovely tips! I learned the hard way, and learned from my coach and running friend-perts to do these very things!

  3. Great tips. I need to get more hills in for iron girl.

  4. Living in Houston means that it's super duper flat too. I ran a 5k in a hilly part of the state not too long after I started running and just about died.

  5. These are great tips and I am going to keep them fresh in my mind for my next half which is rumored to be very hilly. Fingers crossed for more down hill than up:)

  6. Great tips! I went out there yesterday to run over that darn bridge as many times as I could in one. Turns out that was 3 times over and back, which means 6 ups and 6 downs. Running up as definitely different than running down. I'm not quite so afraid of that bridge now. :)

  7. We have lots of hills where I live! I'm great at leaning forwards and using my arms to push up a hill (using arms is the best tip I've ever been given!) but rubbish at running down. I really can't trust myself to lean forwards and just let myself go!


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