How do you tackle hills?

I fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view) live in the Pennines which means I have 'hills' to tackle on each and every run.

After my 'wobble' and lack of motivation I, very proudly, managed to do an 11K run last week however I now need your advise again.

I live towards to top of the valley so at the moment most of my runs go up to the top and then along the tops however I know I need to go down as I'm limiting my runs but I just can't seem to get myself to do it.

Today I decided I was going up which is approx 2 miles with an elevation gain of 304ft - 190ft of that is in 0.5 miles at around 1.25 miles. Now the 190ft levels slightly halfway up for about 50ft so in my head I class it as 2 hills and now can nearly run both without walking (my current walk up the '2 hills' is around 1 minute) so hopefully next time or the one after I will manage all the way up as 4 runs ago I managed around 20ft before I started walking.

The run that goes down at a slight decent for a mile and then drops 315ft drop in 0.65 miles which today I ran all down (which hurts my stomach but getting better) but then it's up . . . . and this is where I fail every time. The last 0.9 miles has an elevation of 230ft and I just can't do it. I get about 100 metres up (at best) and my legs just turn to lead and I have to stop running and walk and I have no idea why because on paper I should be able to get halfway at least but it's just not happening.

So . . . . how do you guys all tackle hills? Do I need to just 'Woman Up' and keep doing it? If so do I continue to do the 4 miles before tackling or do I just walk/run down and then go back up a few hours after my usual runs or do I do it as one of my 3 runs a week?

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26 Replies

  • The general wisdom is to take smaller steps, pump your arms and slow down. I can't really talk, my area is pretty flat, but if I were you I wouldn't tackle the terrible hills on every run, but maybe only once a week. That way you can experience success in other areas. I don't know whether that's feasible!

  • Run slowly going up and fast coming down.

  • Move south :-)

  • Hahaha - I think that may be the way to go lol!

  • Well I am not sure that would work - I definitely encounter some steep hills in Exmoor when I am visiting family! ;)

  • I can think of 2 folks here who are experts at hills - Ju-Ju- and TheTeaFairy. Not seen TTF for a while, but ju-ju- will give you some advice, I'm sure.

  • 😎

  • I slow WAAAAY down and feel like I am pedaling a tiny bike. I don't worry about how slow I am going - right then and there its running up the hill that matters, not speed or anything takes time to build up the stamina to 'conquer' hills so I try and keep it all in perspective so as not to feel like I am 'too slow' :)

  • ..Lots of us on here in hilly areas:) Derbyshire, Staffs Moorlands, Scotland, and Wales :) Anniemurph has tackled a few Beasts..check her posts out and be prepared to stand in awe.. she may have some tips for you ! GoogleMe too, lots of hilly routes and some super posts, i am sure she can help ... skyesue16 .... up there in the Bonnie Hills of Scotland.... I am sure there will be advice given.

    Me... I just go up them, slowly..:) Light steps and using my arms to pump me up :)

    So, the answer to your question.. slow and steady to start with as with everything and then.....just learn to embrace we do the weather :)

    Someone said on here, also, like the weather, that hills were character building ! Not sure but...I certainly can run up things that I never could when I started :)


    Always resist the temptation to run fast downhill, childlike, with arms flying... unless on a grassy gentle slope :) xxx

  • Them hills nasty things they are, but with hills come benefits. Now while your slugging up and down those lovely hills, your building alot more muscle then you do if your just going along flat. Which is great if you ever do a flat race.

    I find the only way to tackle hills is to repeat and repeat again you don't need to go at your normal pace slow down and try and control the breathing. Take a note of how far up you get before walking and see if this improves over time.

    Hills are horrible but they do make you fitter and stronger.

  • Right... I do run a lot of hills and I'm not fast or anything but here are my tips: always start out slowly on your run. My first two miles covers 340 feet and it's all on tough terrain in the woods. If I'm doing anything past 10 miles then I struggle as it's all hills. So- I do this:

    Run on tops of my toes and count to 60, then up to 100 normal flat foot running, then walk counting to 30 and repeat. That works for me when I'm really tired and by counting it goes quickly. I always stop at the tops of the hills to take a breath, a piccy and fluid if I'm on a long run. You are doing fab keep on going 😎

  • I live in Derbyshire and for the first three years of C25K ran on the flat - quite an achievement :D There are many long slow inclines round here but we also keep three sharp hills lying around town for the entertainment of runners. They have names: Punch (don't know why, I didn't christen this one but that's what the local running club call it) which is the most gentle of the three at 40 metres of elevation over about .75km, the second is the Big Hill, which has 50 metres of elevation over .75km and the third, which I have named Killer, has 50 metres of elevation over .55km. I can run the first two but not the third in one go yet. It is my goal for this next few weeks. The first time I ran it, I had to stop twice, the second time I only had to stoop once and I could see the end.

    Probably they aren't very big compared to what many people run, but I'm overweight and not fit. My tips are to warm up first (so don't pile into a hill before you have been running for at least a km), take it slowly, take short steps, to look just ahead of me and not at the top of the hill, to try for 10 more steps when I think I can't possibly do any more, and to remember when I got to or to stop at a defined point or landmark - because next time you will pass it. Keep going!

  • Ik first except for Tissington trail race Annie teehee!

  • But that's all downhill :)

  • Mmmmm i will know better next time 😆

  • Oh, no - hang on, you did the Tissington 10, didn't you? I do apologise! That's 5k uphill first - and the worst bit of it comes first too. I know, because that's my local - I live more or less at the bottom of the trail, so my standard out-and-back is *that* 5k. Ouch!

    The one I was thinking of is the Tissington HM, which is billed as 'the only downhill HM'. According to the people who did it last year, it's not all downhill, and in fact, having run most of the constituent bits of it (though not all at once, I hasten to add), there are some significant slopes that aren't downhill at all!

  • Is it worse than the outward from ashbourne do you think? If not then maybe i should keep this in my horizon as a 'to do' in the next feeeew ( is that phew) years😀

  • No, I don't think so. That hill up from the Leisure Centre through the tunnel is worse than anything I've encountered elsewhere on the Trail. The only thing you would have to be aware of is that they put the finish line after that nasty little down-up over the stream, so you have to keep a teaspoon of effort for the very end. Go for it!

  • Annie -you can't really claim to be unfit!!!! I don't know about your weight and you may not be an elite athlete but I bet you are a lot fitter than most of your contemporaries, and than you were 5 years ago. Enough!!!!!

  • Aww, AR! <3

  • Ooo hills, they are every where around here. So the first thing to do is convince yourself you like hills! I recently ran (all if it) my first 10k race. 5k out and back. The out 5k was an incline the whole way, with a couple of tougher ups/downs near the start, boy it was hard on the calves!

    On the real hills i look 10-20 metres ahead, decide 'well thats not much of a hill' and run it. Then repeat. Small steps, shoulders back but relaxed so that you can breathe deeply. Pump your arms. Very steep hills i run on tip toes as Juju stated earlier. Also always run over the brow of the hill and embrace the ease of the down hill in comparison. Down hills also need training for.

    I have a local 5k route i use for both ups and downs. Its tough so its a slow 5k. I do it whenever i feel im up to it and Im trying to quicken around the route.

    You can also try hill intervals or what are known as Kenyon hills. But a word of warning if you do, start with just a few repeats and build the number slowly to guard against injury. I found this out the hard way! Always stretch well afterwards.

    Enjoy hills, it opens up so many more routes.

  • Keep doing it, as others said, the rewards are amazing! The fact that your stomach pains from downhill running are improving suggests that your core muscles are getting stronger, which is nothing but good. You could probably improve it further by doing some core exercises such as planks (not fun, but at least you can read a book or watch tv while doing them!). I did a hilly marathon last year because I'd realised that running a lot on the flat gets a bit boring - for me anyway, I just think it's so lovely to get to the top of a hill! Feel proud of yourself for the effort, and take in the amazing view. And then there's the running down again, of course :D When you have to walk (and don't worry, everyone has to walk a bit on very steep hills), work on keeping your pace as brisk as possible. Be aware of your body though, particularly the backs of the legs - the Achilles tendon can suffer - if the hill is really really steep always walk. Hill work is a fabulous way of improving speed, so after a while, go and visit a relatively flat parkrun, and marvel when you smash your pb!!

  • Thank you all!

    I think I was hoping that there was some magic spell that you could share that would make them a walk in the park lol.

    Today is my CT day so I've been out for a walk and on my excercise bike which was good as it was nice to go back to where I first starting running and see just how far I've come as I think I keep forgetting that not that long ago I couldn't run any further than the distance between 3 lamp posts and now seem to expect myself to be able to run a marathon over the Alps :-)

    I have my route mapped out for tomorrow which includes 'the' hill however I will do, as I have with the others and as you all suggested, and take it slow and accept that it takes time to build up to completing the full hill and therefore make a mental note of where I stopped and then next time go further.

    I have a feeeling that I've chosen an easy route (doubt I'll think it tomorrow though when I'm actually doing it!) as there is a lot of flat and easy downhills and not too many gentle inclines but rather a few either short and steep or little longer but not as steep hills but it's a 7 mile route so I'll see how I get on.

    I (stupidly!) entered my first 10K race a couple of weeks ago and would, ideally, like to be able to run the whole race which is at the end of May - the Humber Bridge 10K. Looking at the maps it looks relatively flat compared to here however I will reserve judgement until I attempt the course in a few weeks.

  • You have received some great advice from others, more experienced than me. It must be tricky when you actually live on a hill! I agree with others who have said use tip toes on very steep parts and go very slowly, like running on the spot nearly. Maintaining rhythm is important I find so the counting suggested by ju-Ju sounds a good idea. Best of luck:)

  • Have a few hills here in the south! There's no real special way..

  • Walk on the steepest bits. Take care on the descent. I am less gong-ho about downhills post shin splints 🙁

    You can divide a steep hill up by landmarks, resting or having walks in between. You break them down by degrees, manageable chunks. It's hard but you get better at it in time. Men are stronger and generally go up them quicker. We have less shoulder, arm and leg power generally speaking do it's harder for us.

    You can see each hill as a challenge. At least with hills it's easy to measure your improvement, when you can run up them without being aware of it then you know how much you've improved, hills certainly improve stamina

    Be patient though 🙂

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