I was talking on Sunday with a runner who is training for the Wasatch Back Relay and has been running without difficulty for months. Recently she has been runnning hills and is trying a new hill running technique taught at the local rec center, and she has started having leg pain (shin splints). To help others avoid overuse injury while running hills, I will give my recommendations for hill running:

  • Run hills utilizing the same energy as on flat ground. Instead of "attacking" hills, I recommend running at the same energy expenditure, meaning slightly slower with shorter steps. This will allow you to reach the top of a hill without being short of breath and permit you to return to your pre-hill speed (often passing many runners that overexerted on the hill).
  • Use proper running technique. As you run, arms should swing at your side toward the front and back. Never allow arms to swing across the body as this reduces efficiency of running and interferes with proper swing of the legs. Legs should move straight forward (not to the side, not crossing).
  • Arm swing should be shorter and lower. By less aggressive arm swing, you are keeping the legs closer to the ground allowing better propulsion up the hill.
  • Break hills into reachable mental goals. A majority of hill running is mental (as is most running) and setting short goals helps keep you moving up the hill. I break hills into little sections and countdown the sections as I complete a long or difficult hill.

Uphill running can be a great addition to any running program, and can provide you with an edge when racing. Run smart and keep running up that hill...