Do you run by hills instead of running up them? Don't avoid steep inclines because you think they're too challenging. Running hills will make you stronger and faster, help prevent shin splints, and also burn major calories while toning your tush, so here are tips to make hills feel easier so you can start incorporating them into your runs.
When You're Not Running
When you're not running, cross-train with other types of intense cardio to strengthen your heart. Mountain biking, hiking, and walking with the treadmill's incline pumped up — all at a vigorous pace — will do the trick. At first, it will feel like it's impossible to catch your breath, but as your body gets used to the physical demands, you'll be able to get through an intense workout without feeling like you're going to pass out.
Strong legs are also important, since they propel your body weight forward when you're running up a hill. When strength training, focus on moves that target your calves, shins, quads, hamstrings, and booty. Check out this strength-training workout as well as this yoga sequence for runners.
During Your Run
Strengthen legs, run faster, and increase endurance by incorporating sprinting intervals when running on flat surfaces. Also, in order to make hills feel easier, you have to practice running up hills. Start off with short, slightly gradual inclines, and as these feel comfortable, start tackling longer, steeper hills. At first reduce your speed dramatically to keep your breath more even, and increase your pace as you feel ready. It also helps to concentrate on timing your inhales and exhales with your stride. Added bonus: this will give you something to focus on other than your burning quads.
Another trick is to keep your eye on the prize. Look ahead, slightly higher than eye level; it makes breathing easier and is excellent motivation to see the progress you're making. Say a little mantra like "I can do this," and use your arms to pump to offer a little added push up the hill. Sharing the challenge with someone else doesn't hurt either. You're more likely to power through if a running buddy or your pooch is also giving it all they've got. If you need a little outside motivation, then blare your favorite power song, and whether Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, or Christina Aguilera gets you up that hill, every time you make it to the top, it'll get easier. Pretty soon, all this hill training will change your tune so a run won't feel right without some steep inclines thrown in.