Running Hills

April 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

I’m at Juan Pelota, the coffee shop connected to Mellow Johnny’s, Lance Armstrong‘s bike shop.  (I feel like I just dropped a lot of names.  Unintentional.)

I’m drinking a strange-tasting cup of coffee.  I had them put steamed soy, per usual, on top and maybe they use a weird brand, but it tastes sour.  I hope it’s not rotten.

I’m happy because they have these at the condiment bar, though:

This morning, Sarah and I went running around her neighborhood.  I’m in don’t-get-injured mode, so I didn’t want to do any serious hills, but around Austin, it’s hard to avoid hills completely.  

And I realized: I like hills.

When you dig down, shorten your stride and pump up that thing, sending your elbows straight back and keeping your chest as open as possible, nothing feels quite as good as getting to the top and knowing

YOU crushed IT,

not the other way around.

Hill workouts supposedly mimic speed workouts. Especially interesting to me, as this article details, your lower hamstring muscles are less active, which minimizes braking.  I was noticing on Saturday that when I run on my forefoot, a lot of times I’m essentially doing a soft stop with every footfall.  You know how bikes have brakes on the handlebars and when you pull them, the tires just go completely stiff but still slip a little bit forward?  That’s a little bit how I picture my running: I land on my mid to forefoot, and subconsciously (I guess to keep myself from falling) scuff a little bit.

That can’t be good for speed.

With hill training, you don’t do that as much.  Intuitively, this makes sense, since as you go UP, the likelihood of falling forward declines.


In Baton Rouge, where I live right now, hill training is best done on a treadmill or at the levee or in parking garages.  If you’re lucky (yes, lucky!) enough to live in a hilly area, though, it’s definitely worth switching out one speed workout a week for a hill workout.

If your mental toughness, form, speed and muscle activity don’t all show measurable improvement within 6-8 weeks, call me a liar.



§ 2 Responses to Running Hills

  • Oddly enough, I like hills too. I took a trip to Nashville last week and got to run some hills and really enjoyed the change in landscape. Plus, they really help with training. Unfortunately, there aren’t many in Baton Rouge to train with. Lots of the folks that train with Varsity Sports-BR go to St. Franscsiville for hill training. I remember when I lived in NOLA, hill training was done on the levees. Either way, good luck this week in Boston!

  • I so agree about the hills… when you reach the top it feels SO GOOD!! When I incorporate hill training, I really notice a difference in my training and felt so much stronger.

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