A Guide to Efficient Uphill Running

©istockphoto/SolStockRun­ning uphill is one of the hard­est com­po­nents of run­ning to mas­ter for even the most sea­soned pro­fes­sion­als, but there are a few tricks that’ll help you con­quer that moun­tain a lit­tle faster. If you’re going to be com­pet­i­tive, reg­u­lar prac­tice won’t amount to much with­out prop­er form, pac­ing, and breathing.

Lean Into It
A lot of run­ners make the mis­take of bend­ing at the waist when they try to run uphill. You do need to lean into the hill, but try to do so at your hips instead. Lean­ing for­ward at the waist actu­al­ly restricts your breath­ing by con­strict­ing your air­ways. You want your chest to remain upright with your head look­ing approx­i­mate­ly 30 meters in front of you, not down­ward. Con­tin­ue to pump your arms straight for­ward and back while using a high knee dri­ve to push you up the hill.

Main­tain Your Effort
Whether it’s the thrill of a chal­lenge or sim­ply a mis­placed desire to push your­self hard­er at the wrong time, too many run­ners tend to increase their effort as soon as they find them­selves head­ing uphill. This is actu­al­ly coun­ter­in­tu­itive to progress, as it wears you out and slows you down on the way back to ground lev­el. You want to focus on main­tain­ing your goal pace. It’s okay to slow down a bit when you start­ing run­ning uphill in order to save your ener­gy, as you’ll gen­er­al­ly make up the time on the way down if you increase your pace a lit­tle then instead of on the way up. Don’t overex­ert yourself.

Match Your Breathing
All run­ners know that cor­rect breath­ing is essen­tial to max­i­miz­ing your per­for­mance, and as you start your march up the hill it can become hard­er to steady your breaths. The key is to match your breath­ing to your lev­el of effort. With uphill trail run­ning you should be exert­ing a mod­er­ate lev­el of effort in most cas­es. One method is to per­form three-step breath­ing, where­in you breath in for two foot strikes then exhale on the third. On the way back down you can spread out your exhales over every two steps.

Watch Your Feet
Your foot strike will deter­mine your abil­i­ty to pro­pel your­self for­ward up the moun­tain in an effec­tive man­ner, so pay close atten­tion to where your toes are falling. As the ter­rain steep­ens you want to focus more on land­ing on your forefeet in order to posi­tion your cen­ter of grav­i­ty toward the slope. This’ll increase your momen­tum lead­ing into the next step. A great pair of com­pres­sion socks will also will help to pre­vent tight­en­ing in your calves and feet.

Vary Your Workouts
While trail run­ning is usu­al­ly long-dis­tance, you should put effort into switch­ing up your train­ing on short­er hills. Find a steep road on which to prac­tice your short, faster reps to help build up your strength. Alter­na­tive­ly, you can find a larg­er hill and per­form reg­u­lar drills of five min­utes to up your endurance. Of course, you’ll also want to hit the moun­tains and prac­tice your run­ning skills uphill over long dis­tances, about 60 min­utes at a time.