By Kathleen Hill, C.R.N.P., M.S.N., director, Advanced Practitioners
While those of us who love the Media 5 Mile Race see it as a massive block party with a run thrown in for good measure, others see only the hills – each of which must be conquered twice! But you can’t let your fear of hill climbing get the best of you. Whether you’re a novice runner or experienced road warrior, we can all reap major benefits from hitting the hills.
Regular hill workouts can make runners faster, stronger and healthier in as little as six weeks. Additionally, running hills turbo boosts your calorie burn when compared with running on flat terrain. A run that includes changes in elevation makes it easier on your body because every step is not exactly the same, preventing repetitive impact on a specific part of the body. For instance, there is less pounding on the shins when running uphill. Shin splints, along with other injuries, are less likely to occur when runners include hills as part of a smart training program.
Start a Smart Training Program
A smart training program includes strength training, a gradual increase in the speed and duration of running sessions and a focus on proper form. Strength training should include core exercises like planks, as well as more targeted exercises such as calf-raises to strengthen the calf and ward off Achilles tendinitis. Other helpful additions include wall squats, lunges and step–ups.
Plan Your Workout
Hill workouts come in many forms and, like any other workout, should start with a warm-up. The simplest hill workout includes a warm-up on the flat and multiple runs up a 1/4 to 1/2 mile hill at an effort that is tough but achievable followed by a jog down the hill. Beginners should start with two to three repeats and increase weekly. Experienced runners can start with five to six and increase weekly. Do not add hill repeats until you have been running for at least six weeks.
Do not try to maintain the same pace up the hill; instead, focus on maintaining the same level of effort. Shorten up the stride and maintain the same rate of turnover of the feet. Run through the top of the hill, don’t pull back as soon as the top is crested.
Because what goes up must come down, downhill running deserves a word or two. Proper form includes upright posture, with soft steps. The stride can be lengthened, but shortened as needed to regain control. Avoid excessive “braking” on the hills as this wreaks havoc on knees and hamstrings.
Keep Your Form
Last but not least, keep focused on form, especially as fatigue sets in and there is a tendency to slouch. Proper form while running hills includes an upright form with eyes focused about 20 feet in front of you. Do not stare at your feet! Pumping the arms forward and back will help the effort, while pumping arms across the body results in wasted effort and can throw off form. Poor form shifts the work to muscles that have not been trained.
When running gets hard, have a mantra ready to quiet any internal whining. Repeating a phrase like “I’m stronger than this hill,” “I trained for this” or (particularly apropos of this race) “there’s beer at the end” will stop the whining in its tracks. Counting footsteps also works.
Now that you’ve conquered your climacophobia, I look forward to seeing you on the hills!
About the Media 5 Mile Race
Crozer-Keystone Health System is proud to sponsor the 32nd Annual Media 5 Mile Race on State Street. The course travels two loops through the streets of Media borough with awards and finish at Veterans Square. For more information on the race, please click here.