Five Reasons Runners Should Train on Hills

by Jim Richardson | Last Updated: July 12, 2020

There is one kind of running that even many running devotees often overlook: running hills. Now, the prospect of running up and down a steep incline fills many runners with dread.

Running hills can seem like a pointless misery. But, in fact, there are some big advantages to hill running. Here are five reasons to consider adding running hills to your training.

1. Increased endurance.

Running up hills is by nature an intense, demanding activity. While some runners may be able to almost glide along during flat sections, getting up a hill necessarily requires a lot from the cardiovascular system. Your heart must work hard, which ultimately improves aerobic endurance.

2. Greater strength.

When running up a hill, every single step works your muscles harder. In addition, running up an incline requires a different motion in comparison to traversing a flat plane. More work is done by the lower legs. As a result, the calves and other lower leg muscles especially gain strength.

3. Added speed.

The muscle groups required to run up hills are actually almost the same as those used when sprinting, which means hill running qualifies as speed work. While you won’t actually be going very fast up a hill, the effects on your body are still similar to sprinting. Your heart rate will become elevated, pushing your body into an anaerobic state, in which the body cannot rely solely on oxygen intake for needed energy.

4. A new challenge.

Following the same running routine for weeks and months straight gets old. The body needs to be challenged in new, demanding ways. Otherwise, you get in a rut, stagnation sets in, and your abilities stop improving. Taking on the challenge of running hills will make you become a better runner, which is particularly valuable if you are a competitive runner.

5. It can be enjoyable.

Yes, running up a precipitous incline can actually be a good experience. While perhaps not enjoyable in a hedonistic sense, accomplishing difficult challenges such as hill running certainly brings a great sense of satisfaction and pride. You’ll feel great (psychologically, if not physically) after a session of running hills. Plus, hill running often offers great views and the chance to appreciate nature.

No one who cares about running can afford to ignore the opportunity offered by hill running. While running hills can seem intimidating and distinctly not fun from the outside, once you try it you will find it well worth the effort.

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