Techniques for Running Hills

Running hills efficiently is a key to successful racing in cross country. This article has three parts. A discussion of uphill running, then downhill and finishes with attitude and approach.

Uphill Running

Uphill technique has several parts. Do not bend over too far or lean too far into a hill. It causes
bad form and limits proper breathing. Try to stay upright. An aggressive arm swing is essential.
The steeper the hill, the more exaggerated the arm swing needs to be. It helps lift the legs so that
the runner does not end up with short, choppy steps. That results in a loss of power and speed.
Finally, cresting is especially important technique. That is, do not relax the effort when reaching the top of a
hill. Take two to four quick strides to reestablish a normal stride length. Otherwise, the tendency is to be in the shorter stride mode that uphill running often creates.

Downhill Running

Downhill technique also has several parts. It is important to stay balanced. This is achieved in
several ways. Land midfoot instead of using the braking motion that heel striking brings. Most
importantly, substantially increase turnover or stride frequency. This keeps the runner’s feet on the
ground more often increasing the sense of stability and balance. Finally, some experts suggest
making an adjustment with the arms. Moving them a bit wider for balance is the simplest and least
energetic strategy.

Running Hills, attitude and approach

Many studies have demonstrated that trying too hard while running uphill is ultimately more costly
in terms of energy use. This extra effort cannot be compensated for by the ease of the downhill. It is best to keep a steady effort with good technique. Make use of the cresting technique mentioned above and run downhill with an aggressive attitude. My experience with runners at the famously hilly Mt. Sac course is that really aggressive downhill running is a key to winning races on hilly courses.

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