Variety In Uphill Running Makes It Fun

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With the start of the New Year I’ve got back into hill running. Some people love running hills; others avoid them like the plague. I’m one of those runners that normally enjoy running uphill more than downhill. Unfortunately I’ve slowed down and perhaps as a consequence my love of running hills has waned a bit. A little voice has been talking to me though, with a gentle reminder that it’s time to improve my ChiRunning hill techniques. The race that I love running — the Dipsea, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year and I want to be in good shape for running this extremely hilly race.

When January 1st rolled around I decided it was time to add some challenge into my running routine. At the end of 2009 I had been a bit lazy. The distance I was running was much shorter and sometimes I would just opt for walking the dogs. When I did lace up my running shoes I would do shorter runs and work on my running form. Which is a good thing. But, I like variety; so, to add some spice and challenge I started running hill repeats.

Over the years I have done many forms of uphill running workouts.  Some were long continuous hills to focus on distance and build cardiovascular capacity, some were rolling hills and I would alternate between increasing my heart rate when running uphill and then return to my basic aerobic rate on the downhill. In fact, these two workouts are described and recommended in the Beginner and Intermediate Marathon Training Program. It has been said by many coaches “if you want to improve your running, head for the hills”.

Before I launched back into running hill repeats I went back to the basics and brushed up on the different focuses for uphill running technique. The ChiRunning Book has a whole section (pages 175-186) that describes running up easy to moderate hills and running up steep hills. Armed with those reminders I have joined a group of friends doing hill repeats twice now and am looking forward to my third workout this weekend.

Yes, I am enjoying running hills again. Part of what is making it fun is being out there with a group. We have a routine that is prepared in advance for us. We don’t have to think or decide what to run. We just do what we are told. There are several sets in the workout and each set includes some combination of short sprint, short run, medium run and then long repeat. We are all at different abilities so I get to observe all the individual running technique … and I see all the energy wasted through a power running type of effort or pushing off from the toes instead of a midfoot strike. I wasn’t going to brag … but I will, because it demonstrates so perfectly the efficiency of alignment and relaxation and the ChiRunning uphill focuses. On one hill repeat I was about 15 yards behind a couple of people so I decided to focus all my attention on one of the new tricks Danny taught us at the Instructor Weekend in November.  The next thing I knew I was alongside them and while they were gasping for air I was quite relaxed. Now how much fun is that?


Posted in Beginners

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