The Surprising Benefits of Running Hills

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably intimidated by hill running. I used to try to avoid hill running at all costs. Running hills is hard! It made me go slow, run out of breath, and made my legs sore! But sometimes it’s impossible to avoid. I have learned that there are also some surprising benefits of running hills!

I live in Pittsburgh, which is a city that has some really extreme hills, so hill running is basically unavoidable. Since I moved here, I have started to adapt to hill running. Hill running can be intimidating for new runners, but it is important for all types of runners.

Improves Running Economy

One of the major benefits of running hills is that it improves running economy. But what is running economy? Running economy measures runner’s energy consumption when running at aerobic intensity.

It basically is summed up by the ability to consume less oxygen while running at a certain velocity. Distance runners can improve their race performance by focusing on improving their running economy.

“One major study carried out on marathon runners discovered that after 12 weeks of twice-weekly hill sessions, the athletes’ running economy had improved by three per cent. Although the subjects were trained runners, that improvement would still have helped them clip as much as two minutes off a 10-mile time or six minutes off a marathon.”

Runner’s World Magazine

Running hills improves the efficiency of how the cariovasuclar and muscular systems absorb and utilize oxygen while also removing waste products. So what does this mean exactly? Running more hills = improved race performance! That’s right, the best runners run lots of hills!

Build Strength & Increase Speed

Running hills is a form of resistance training. That means that it helps to build the muscles in your calves, hamstrings, and quads. Hill running builds strength in these muscles much more than running on flat surfaces.

And an added bonus is that if you do not like strength training, running hill intervals can be a great way to improve your leg strength without doing specific strength training exercises!

Did you know that the main muscles used in running hills are the same hills that are utilized for running sprints? Improving the strength of your leg muscles through hill training naturally helps you to run faster.

Improve Mental Strength and Confidence

Running hills helps to improve your mental strength and confidence, which is great for race training! Running hills teaches you to be patient while managing a low level of physical discomfort.

Many prestigious races are known to be quite hilly – Boston Marathon, Big Sur, etc. Hill training can prepare you mentally for what to expect during a hilly race and make the hills less intimidating on the race course.

  • So what are your thoughts on hill running?
  • After hearing these benefits are you more apt to give hill running a try?

Comment below!

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7 Comments

  1. Hills are so beneficial for runners! I have alot of hills around where I live. Its hard to do more than a mile without adding in some hills, and the farther I go the bigger they get. I visited Pittsburg a few years ago and would definitely agree that its hilly there!

  2. Yep, hills for the win!! I have hills all around me… not all of them are huge, but there are plenty to choose from. I also do a lot of stair-training, which is like hill-running on steroids LOL. Hills are good for us 😉

  3. It’s hard not to run hills around here, LOL! I actually really do enjoy hill repeats, although it’s been a while since I’ve done them. I’ve done some pretty hilly races, including several downhill races, and I always try to train for those — otherwise it’s too painful.!

  4. That’s really interesting about how hill running improves running economy so much! I did know that it was good for me but now I know exactly how good! I live in a fairly hilly area but I do get out for some hill repeats. I’ll be more consistent with it once we have real races to train for.

  5. Hills are great! We are so flat where I live – I have to drive 20 minutes to get to the intercoastal bridge, which is the closest thing we have to a hill. I confess to not doing it enough.

  6. I live in a very hilly neighborhood but I’ve been trying to keep things flat for a while…maybe I need to start adding in a few hill repeats for strength! They definitely helped when I was marathon training!

    1. Yes, I like to do that too! It definitely helps with the strength building!

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