Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water….most of us will have heard of this rhyme and remember it was a bit of a disaster! For Jack to fall and Jill to tumble, however, suggests they were going up a decent incline. If the objective was also to improve their fitness they had the right idea! Why?
In short, hill runs challenge you. They stress the body which in turn makes you stronger - both mentally and physically. Most avoid them because they hurt. However, as for most areas in life, the things worth doing are usually the hardest. For those who do work on the hill, you’re onto a winner and there’s more than spectacular views waiting for you at the top!
The benefits of embracing the hurt locker in scientific terms:
- Improved lactate threshold - ability to buffer acid. Recycling lactate as energy.
- Increased VO2 - ability for lungs to uptake oxygen
- Increased activation of hamstring and gluteal muscles.
- Increased training effect - adaptation/ gains
- Increased EPOC (exercise post oxygen consumption).
- And from an anecdotal point of view improved ability to control stress.
What does that mean to you?
- Improved recovery
- Shorter high intensity hill sessions can substitute for short- mid distance runs
- Hill runs improve your flats. Flats don’t improve your hills.
- You will see GAINS because it’s hard.
- The ‘after-burn’ will occur post training session. But don’t get too carried away -this might be 100-200kcal extra if you’re lucky.
- You learn to deal with stress better aka train harder with more focus.
Now that you're sold let’s talk about technique and Jedi mind tricks. What are the techniques to cope better with the hill?
I am not a fell runner or proclaim to be a hill running expert - if there was such a thing. I have, however, given it some consideration and here are some of my thoughts to help your darker moments. In short, think like the ‘SBS’.
S- State of mind
S- make your thoughts positive and distract the mind: use imagery, self talk, mantras and humour. These work.
B- know that the demands placed on the body will create an imbalance in O2/CO2 and therefore an exercise induced anxiety. The more O2 you inhale and the more CO2 you exhale the less stressed you will be. Try different breathing rhythms eg 2:2 or 2:1. (eg 2:1 = 2 part inhale 1 long out).
S- don’t get overwhelmed with the whole challenge. Break it down and take each challenge as they come. Create a strategy that positively helps.
Embrace the hill, soak up the view and enjoy the gains.