It's a little crazy to think that my big Ragnar race is less than a month away! As I've been on my training runs, there's one constant: I make sure to hit two major hills during my run. Sometimes they are short and steep, sometimes they are a longer and gradual. Either way, a hill placed at the wrong time can suck all energy and momentum out of your run. Here are some tricks (and a pseudo clever acronym) I use to get through them.
PUmp your arms
Your normal "relaxed" stride will quickly drain your energy when you start going up the hill. You need to speed up your pace a little in order to get up that hill. The easiest way to do that is to pump your arms. Yes, you heard me right. Pump your arms!
There's something interesting about your body when your running that you may not have noticed. Your arms and your legs like to be in a rhythm together. You never see your arms moving faster than your legs, or vice versa. It's also a bit easier to get your arms to move faster than your legs. Your legs are busy supporting the weight of your body and moving you forward. Your arms are just keeping momentum. So start pumping your arms faster. You don't have to pretend to sprint either. Just start pumping your arms a bit harder, and your legs will follow suit.
Shorten your stride
Have you ever tried to go up a flight of stairs using your normal walking stride? It doesn't work too well. Most likely you're trip on a step since your normal stride is designed to go "long" and you need to go "up" the stairs. To accomodate for this, shorten your stride. When you combine this with the pumping of the arms (and subsequently your legs), this will get your knees up and shorten your stride, perfect for going up hills.
Now that we have the mechanics in place, it's time to finish things off with the mental factor. Hills are tough. With really steep hills, your body tends to slump down a little (since it's getting tired) and you wind up staring at your feet. This won't do. You'll only see the ground and this isn't very motivating. Look up! Pick a target at the top of your hill. It could be a mailbox, a tree, a person, anything. Sometimes just the top of the hill itself will do. Now focus on that point. Use laser precision, stare at it, and don't let your eyes off until you get to the top of the hill. You'd be surprised at what a simple focus like this can do to your motivation and energy. Keeping your head up also has the added bonus of opening up your air passages, so you can get extra oxygen to those leg muscles that are carrying you up!
But wait, there's more to just getting up to the top.
once you crest the peak of the hill Extend your Stride
Excellent! You've made it to the top of the hill. Your legs are probably burning a bit, your breathing is heavy, but you're there! Your body is going to want to get back into its normal "long" stride, but it might be so fatigued that all you're going to get is a short stride, a tired body, and the rest of your run will be slow and miserable.
Once you crest the peak of the hill, you're body will let out a small sigh of relief. You can feel this. It's saying all the climbing work is done. Once you feel this, make yourself to three long strides with your legs. You want to over exaggerate this a little in your mind. The reason for this is this will get your legs stretched out again. This will help your body get into the stride it was used to before you started up the hill, and will carry you forward.
Hopefully this gets you up the next batch of hills that you run, with the energy and motivation to tackle the next one. Any tips you have for hills? I'd love to hear them!