Why running uphill makes you a better runner

Most runners don’t like running uphill. 

Depending on the steepness of the hill, it’s extremely difficult to run uphill. But, just like anything else that is difficult, it pays off in the end. Running hills has many benefits, like building strength, speed, and confidence, and some others that we’ll get into later.

Here are a few reasons why you might want to include hills in your training.

Running uphill builds strength

Uphill running is actually a form of resistance training. The resistance is the incline or gravity. Going against gravity builds muscle in your quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. Running uphill will also strengthen your hip flexors and Achilles tendons.

Strength training without a gym

Studies have found that running uphill strengthens these areas more than running on flat surfaces. If you’re not a fan of hitting the gym for strength training, hill running can be a great way to build these muscles as an alternative to lifting weights.

Running uphill can lower your injuries

Sometimes running uphill sucks.

For many people, it’s a means to an end. The actual running part is a difficult, sweaty, wheezing mess. But the outcome is stronger lungs, heart, and legs. As you strengthen your leg muscles, you may also reduce the risk of ​running-related injuries. 

Engaging your muscles

You’ll be required to engage your glutes and hamstring muscles as you run uphill. And you will feel the burn. But running downhill engages different muscles. It requires stability from knee joints as they engage both the lateral and medial quadriceps muscles.

How running uphill lowers injury

YOu utilize and strengthen different muscle groups when running uphill and then running downhill. When you challenge those muscle groups over time, they may be better prepared to meet any physical barrier you encounter.

uphill running

Increase speed

Due to its unique nature, running hills uses different muscles than those used for sprinting. The strength you build running uphill will help to increase your speed. 

Workouts for running uphill

A super difficult, but very rewarding workout known as hill repeats is great for speed, strength, and endurance. While it may seem daunting, the workout is actually simple.

How to do a hill repeat

  1. Find a hill with a distance that you feel is attainable. Try 200 meters (657 feet.)
  2. Run up the hill as fast and hard as you can.
  3. Then recover by walking or jogging down the hill.
  4. Repeat

Using a hill workout can really mix up your treadmill routine. To do hill repeats on a treadmill, increase the incline for 1 to 3 minutes, then walk to recover.

For some great treadmill training read this article, Easy HIIT Treadmill Workout For Runners.

Upper body strength by running uphill

When you run up a hill, it changes your form and posture. This type of running forces you to move your arms harder than you do when running on flat ground. Your arms help to give momentum and propel you up the hill. 

A Stanford study found that you engage your core as well as your upper body muscles as a means of propulsion.

Even though some people prefer hills to hit the gym, it’s not a substitute. You should still try to do some strength or resistance training. This has a way of confusing the muscle groups, thus leading to growth and strength. 

running uphill

Grow intensity by running uphill

The crazy thing about running hills is that as your intensity increases, your speed typically stays the same. All your vitals, heart rate, breathing, and sweat glands increase as you run uphill. 

Calorie burn when running uphill

When you add intensity to a hill run, you’ll burn more calories. The total number of additional calories will depend on the incline and your speed. One thing is sure, you should expect an increase in your fat-burning potential when you run hills.

Get out of the rut running uphill

Many chubby runners get into ruts from time to time. The same old routine can get boring and old. To get out of that rut, you need a new course, a new run, something to spice it up. Adding running uphills and downhills to your routine can help prevent mental and physical burnout from the same old routine.

Why do you get into a running rut?

Just like any other exercise, if you never increase the weight or duration, you’re going to plateau. This is because you’re not challenging your body, and pushing it beyond its limits. When all you run is flat road courses, your body gets used to running on flat roads. Hills give your muscles a challenge. When you mix up your routine, it can lead to great gains.

Running uphill can break mental barriers too

There is something about standing at the bottom of a hill, looking up, and then conquering it. When you reach the top, you feel a sense of physical accomplishment, but you also break a mental barrier. That small triumph will boost your confidence.

running hills

Running hills prepares you for race day

Breaking through mental and physical barriers is a big deal. The more you push yourself, the stronger you’ll become. The more hills you conquer, the less intimidating they’ll seem if you encounter them during a race. Your improved strength will give you a confidence boost on race day.

Running uphill makes race day a breeze

Races are always hard, but they can feel easier based on your level of preparation.

Before any race, check the course map. Look for the elevation chart so that you can see how many hills your race route has. To better prepare, you can find hills to train on so that come race day, it’ll be a breeze.

Final thoughts on hill running

Running uphill sucks. Especially in the dead heat of summer. 

Just because running uphill sucks, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. You definitely should incorporate it into your running regimen. I still highly recommend it as a training tool. Running hills does pay off in the end. You just gotta get to the bottom of that hill and know that you can conquer it. I know you can.

See you at the top.