The Hill

From a distance, it seems as though the road runs into a wall of asphalt, however, in reality, this “wall” is in fact a hill—or as some like to call it, “The Hill of Doom.”  Despite this uninviting name, my sister and I love to reap its wonderful health benefits.  How?  By running up it!  Uphill sprinting is an excellent workout that takes flat ground sprinting to the next level.  (For more information on the benefits of flat hill sprinting, I recommend reading the post “Sprinting 101”).

6 BENEFITS OF UPHILL SPRINTING:

  1. Prevents Injury:  You can’t run as fast up a hill as you can on level ground!  This difference is actually a good thing because you are less likely to overextend a muscle.  Furthermore, because of the incline, your strides are shorter, which reduces the impact on your joints.
  2. Burns Fat & Builds Muscle:  Because you are fighting against gravity, your muscles (particularly your hamstrings, glutes, calves, and quads) have to work harder than normal.  To adapt to this new work load, they will eventually grow stronger.  As your muscle mass increases, so does your metabolism—the body’s fat burning machine!
  3. Increases Lung Capacity:  As you sprint up a hill, your arms and legs are pumping furiously against gravity in order to push your body to the top.  Because your muscles are working EXTRA hard, they need EXTRA fuel in the form of oxygen.  And who is going to supply this fuel?  The Lungs!  Thus, your lungs are forced to take in EXTRA oxygen, which means their capacity will increase.
  4. Saves Time: The time you spend running hills is small, but the benefits you receive are huge! Personally, without including warm up and cool down, I spend no more than 15 minutes running up hills.  Why?  Because this workout is extremely vigorous!  You don’t need to spend much time running up hills in order to strengthen your muscles and lungs.  It’s not how far you run; it’s how intense you run.  Remember, quality over quantity. 
  5. Increases Speed:  After a sprint workout, running on flat surfaces will feel like a breeze!  Because of a hill’s incline, you are forced to lift both your knee and toe to a higher position.  This form increases your power as you run, and thus your speed.
  6. Improves Self-Confidence:  After completing a hill workout, you will feel very accomplished because this workout is not easy!  Just make sure you can contain your ego!

HOW TO PREFORM A HILL WORKOUT:

  1. Pick a Number:  Before tackling a hill, it’s a good idea to pick the number of sprints you want to do (I usually choose 10) and stick to it.  While you’re running, you might try to plead and bargain with yourself (as I often do) to lower the number.  But DON’T do it!  Just keep telling yourself “one more sprint, one more sprint” and before you know it, you will have reached your goal—or maybe even passed it. 
  2. Warm Up and Stretch:  As with any workout, make sure you spend about 5 minutes warming up your muscles and stretching them out in order to prevent injury.
  3. Sprint Up:  Now that your body is warmed up, shake off any self-doubt you may have and sprint up the hill! Remember, don’t hold back—run as fast as you can. 
  4. Jog/Walk Down:  Once you’ve reached the top you SHOULD be sucking wind.  (If you’re not, you either need to increase your intensity or find a steeper hill).  You should then jog/walk down the hill and catch your breath.  Once at the bottom, if you are still breathing pretty hard, continue to walk around a bit more to slow your breathing. 
  5. Repeat:  Once you’ve caught your breath, run up the hill again! 

In addition to sucking wind, you should also begin to feel a burn in your legs.  Burn is good!  Your muscles are being forced outside their comfort zone, which means that they will eventually adapt and grow stronger. 

When you finish your hill sprints, you should feel proud because this workout is never easy!