Use Less Leg Muscle Up Hills with ChiRunning

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In our local Tuesday morning training session we were working on hill technique as we’re all getting ready for the very hilly Asheville Half Marathon in September. One of the main ideas I was trying to impress upon everyone is that, when you’re training for a hilly course, your practice needs to be focused on how to make the hills easy on your body, whether you’re going up or downhill. Now, this might seem obvious and simplistic, but when I say easy on your body I’m talking about working to improve your hill technique so that your body relies less and less on leg strength and more on core strength, which is the opposite to how most people train for hills. There is no comparison between the huge amount of power your core has to offer and that of your legs. None of the great golfers and homerun hitters do what they do by just swinging their arms. They generate power in their swing by swinging from their hips.

The sooner you can get your mind and body around this approach, the sooner you can step out of strength training and into a greater sense of ease with one of the more challenging aspects of running… hills. So, don’t think of pushing yourself up a hill with your legs. Think instead of pushing your legs down the hill with your hips by engaging your obliques to drive those hips in a rearward swing. This will allow your legs to relax and be more passive.

One of the best ways to get your leg muscles not to work is to imagine an invisible line of energy running from your hip to your heel. As you drive your hip to the rear, think of that connection from your hip to your heel and bypass the engagement of your quads and calves. This is most effective if you can totally relax your lower legs. Be sure to lean into the hill and shorten your stride… cadence always stays the same.

(Note: Pelvic Rotation is explained on pgs. 99-100 in ChiRunning and active use of the obliques is explained on pg. 181 in Chi Marathon. For a visual explanation check out the Hills and Trails DVD.)

Posted in Beginners

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