How do any of you manage the hills??

I can do 5k in about 36mins (being my best) I've always picked nice flat places to run and choosing a nice downy bit to finish on. Over the last couple of weeks I've pushed it up to 6k, but just cannot do ANY kind of hill, and I mean cannot do a hill at all, any slight incline and I've had it, can't breathe puffin n pantin, legs stop working and I have to walk, shame because I live in a very hilly area!! and its getting a bit boring not being able to go where I want.

How do you all cope with the dreaded hills??


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33 Replies

  • Hi. I went through the same agony. I think it's a case of starting small & building up. Like a lot of aspects of running, it's a mental challenge. The little chimp on your shoulder whispers in your ear that hills are tough - you'll never run up that hill ... give up and save the pain.

    But if you start with a slight gradient, it should be no problem. Then you move to a slightly steeper section. Once you get to a level where the chimp starts complaining, just remind yourself that you thought you couldn't run for a minute ... but look at you now. If you can run when you thought you couldn't, you can sure as heck make it up that piddling little hill! Walk up if you like, but go up it. Gradually, you'll become used to it as your stamina builds.

    Easier said than done? Nah - I really hated hills & went (more than a mile) out of my way to avoid one in particular. But one day I was taken on a run up a mountain. Me? Never. But I did it. It was really just a brisk walk up, but a great run back down.

    Thing was, having done that, I rarely had a problem with hills thereafter. The chimp was well & truly in its cage!

  • Oh my goodness, I've just read your past post about the mountain, if that isn't inspiration I don't know what is, what a fantastic accomplishment, well done you :-) I felt your glee as reading. I went half way up Ben Nevis 11 years ago couldn't go any further so we came back down :-( one day I will return after reading yours and ill run (part of it anyway)

    Thanks for the tips

  • I remember when I just hated the thought of running up a hill. I would go out of my way to avoid them. I too live in a hilly area and also had that same monkey on my shoulder. Then I decided that I had to not let them beat me! It sounds crazy and maybe wouldn't work for everyone, but I actually started looking for hills to run up. There is a particularly steep one about a mile away from home that is about 1/2 mile long. Well, I made myself a promise that I wouldn't let it beat me. There was absolutely no way that I was going to be reduced to a walk!

    Well, to start with, the monkey was screaming at me to walk, but I just kept telling myself that I could do it. That hill - or any other for that matter - has never beat me. I was very slow to start with - still slow sometimes - but I gradually found that I was actually enjoying it more than running on the flat. Getting everything working harder was my goal when I started this.

    It isn't easy I know but just go for those hills gradually and you will find that it will get easier and more enjoyable.

  • Going out and looking for 1/2 mile hills!! Yes I agree your mad :-)

    But yes I think I'll try and find a little hill each run and build up slowly

  • I too live in a very hilly area so I've Had no choice but to do them. The route we do now starts with a hill that last 5 mins of Laura ( we are doing stamina), with a really steep bit at the end. I have found that it sort of gets the aches and pains of getting into the run out of the way quicker.. And then I get a rest running down the other side so I am careful to pace myself as half way through the run we have a second one. That one the gremlin on my shoulder gets at me but getting to the top feels great. Like everyone has said it's a mental thing.. Take it slow, and just think of the great feeling when you get to the top!! You can do it!! Julia

  • Do you find getting that hill over with at the beginning was better? It didn't knacker you for the rest of the run? As I find the first 5-10 mins the hardest. there is a run by me a 5mile 'loop' which ever way you start you hit a hill, I'd love to be able run all the way round (not managed yet)

  • Hi Souki

    I avoided hills whe started, found myself a nice route mainly downhill and stuck to it, but like the others I live in a hilly area, I found the best thing was to just take it really slow, bit cheeky to call it running really but once you conquer one hill it gets easier, I completed my programme on a run that was mainly hills just to prove I could do it, it's the mental side of the programme, I found it really hard at times but I also found I got bored of the same safe route and changing the route changed the challenge

    Good luck keep at it, remember it doesn't matter haw fast you go just keep moving.

  • Yes I too am getting bored of the 'safe' runs, I'm off to find a little hill :-) well maybe later :-)

  • Hi, there is no way round this just go for it. I used to avoid them aswell but it restricted my routes. Yes they are hard but you get a wonderful feeling of achievement and can beat that recovery on the other way down again. Hill running is very good to incorporate into your training programme. Helps with stamina and endurance...and good for the glutes . There is some good info on running websites about how to tackle hills. Good luck and enjoy x

  • Yep my glutes need some hills :-)

  • I struggle with hills and inclines too! A agree that it is a mental challenge as much as a physical one. I was really proud of myself for managing to conquer one hill near home (I've only managed it once though!). To do that I broke it own into segments, get to one point, good, now get to the next one, each time try to get further. I also mentally marked a point on the hill which was nearly at the top so when I got there I said to myself - nearly there don't give up now.

    A colleague at work has advised interval training for hills? I've no idea if this will work, but once I feel confident with doing 30 min runs regularly I'm going to give this a go. She advised to find a hill, from the bottom, really power run to the first lamppost then turn round and walk down relaxing your arms, at the bottom, power run to the second lamppost, turn round and walk down etc etc. I don't know if it will work, but it does feel that it might.

  • Omg!! That sounds like a beasting :-) I know what you mean though x

  • Hi. I cannot really comment on 'Running up' hills as I am only on Week 2. But I have done a lot of hill walking. I struggled for a long time, before I had an epiphany. I used to trudge up narrow trails invariably following my friend who is somewhat shorter than me. His technique was to walk up with short steps. This killed me (I am 6'). I now walk up hills by maintaining stride, and my friend has now changed his technique. We now find hills a lot easier.

    I think this stems from walking with short strides is more tiring than walking at your natural stride. My wife and I walk at very different paces, and we just have to find a happy balance to walk together otherwise one of us suffers. Try it, next time you walk to the shops or something, walk at a shorter stride than normal and see how hard it is. It's like walking with a toddler, very tiring. :-)

    I also think there is a mental block with hills as well. They are tough, so we mentally resign ourselves to a slog. I have overcome this with walking as I described above, and I would tackle a run up hill the same way I think (we only have modest hills around us). Might not work for others of course.

    I think the advice given above of take it steady, and start gentle is good, but don't turn it into a trudge.

    Good luck, let us know how you get on.

  • I think I do have a short running stride, (and a toddler) ill try out both and see, thanks

  • I don't usually have a problem with hills but used to be completely wasted at the top and would have to walk for a few minutes. One day I decided that I had to get over it and so kept running for 20 steps after reaching the top. The next day I made it 40 and so on until I realised that I could manage without a break. You can do it! Think of how far you have already come, his is just another step on the way. Good luck.

  • I like this :-) if I have had to tackle a hill when I get to he top I'm gasping for air so much I'm doubled over, I have asthma and that worries me, I'm going really slowly. I think a v small hill and 10-20-30 steps more each time sound good x

  • its a case of sticking at it...when you come to a hill concentrate on your style...pick the legs up and focus on a spot 10/15 yds ahead and concentrate...its hard but it is ultimately rewarding and your times will tumble!!


  • Yes I must pick my head up as well as my legs, I'm always looking at the ground whilst staggering up a hill :-)

  • i do this as well, i know you are supposed to look ahead but i can't!!! i don't like to know how far i still have to climb and by not looking, although i am incredibly slow, i give myself a surprise when i get to the top!!!!! lol

  • What a lot of different strategies! What worked for me was taking much shorter steps (for a very steep hill) - so I was very interested to see that it didn't work for someone else! Although shorter steps do feel weird, it means I can keep going (it takes a similar amount of effort, but I go slower), and managed to get all the way up a pretty steep hill, and keep going when I reached the top.

    So try experimenting and see what works for you. :)

    Try seeing hills as an interesting challenge, rather than as scary and impossible!

  • Yes that does make sense, I guess everyone has to find their rhythm with hills, mmmm yes interesting challenge :-)

  • Hi Souki, Good luck with tackling hills late on after graduation. Interval running-which is exactly what you are doing now-helps. Find somewhere with small gradients to start off with (someone has already said start small and work up). Or restart 0-5k at week 5 before moving back into Stepping Stones, then B10?

    I had 6m time out after graduating, as first I had a knee injury, then when I was fit to run again after 4m my husbands health declined. I restarted 4 weeks ago, 3 weeks after he died from liver cancer. So, this is second time round for me on 0-5k. I made a big mistake first time round of avoiding all gradients and hills of any description. This time round I have been seeking them out! I now know that in order to build my stamina-this is the aim of 0-5k-I have to face the demons head on.

    I always start run 1 of any week with a flat surface, I then get the feel of the run. Run two I go to another running place with the gradients and complete the last two runs including the gradients. You need to do the gradients-as you have found out you are not actually building your stamina staying on the flat and it is a shock to find you are not as fit as you thought you were even though you have run for 30 minutes 5k and graduated.

    I have certainly found by redoing the course from week 1 I am a much better runner and fewer problems than I had before with my breathing. I have asthma, and I have noticed one heck of a difference this time round.

    Hope this has given you food for thought and helped a bit.

    Keep on Running :-)

    Colette x

  • I'm so sorry to read about your husband, glad you got back out and ran though I bet it helps, running for me is a release from 'stuff' I find it helps. Your right I wish I never went out of my way to avoid those pesky hills, if I had just included them from the beginning I wouldn't be in this position.

    At the weekend I run with the canicrossers (people who run with their dogs) I'm attached to my two large 'pulling' dogs and they pull me up any hill we come across, so a bit of a cheat really, so I guess that's why I find doing them alone so hard. But I must learn xx

    Good luck with your return xx

  • Very sorry to hear about your loss, Colette.

    I think I see hills a bit differently - I think if I'd tried the big hill near me too early, it would have really put me off, and I might not have got to the end of week 9! As it was, once I'd graduated, having consciously avoided hills, I deliberately went out to try the hill, not worrying about the time it might take, but just aiming to keep going, tiny step by tiny step. And I managed it (very, very slowly!) - but I think it really helped me to keep going, already knowing that I could run for 30 minutes on the flat.

    I've still got plenty of scope for improving my running, speed and stamina-wise, but I got through the programme, and that was such a big boost for my self-esteem. Hills are an extra for me, not part of the basics! I can see that some might be happier (or might not have a choice) to deal with hills as they go along - but I'm not sure that trying them too soon works for everyone. That's my take anyway! :)

  • I can't avoid hills where I live (on a hill!). I try to go for same effort rather than same speed - that way you should be able to recover better afterwards. Hill intervals training is really beneficial, although I'll confess to taking it easy on hills at the moment as I've had achilles tendon problems for weeks (both ankles). The achilles problem has led me to find that small steps are most comfortable going up hills. If you encounter really steep hills I find the technique suggested in Chi Running works well, which is to sort of run sideways up the hill (switch sides from time to time so you don't overstrain one side). It uses slightly different muscles and doesn't strain achilles tendons or calves quite so much.

    The training sessions we do at running club involve running up a hill then jogging gently back down to recover then running up again - usually aim for 4-5 repeats of this.

  • Oh your into 'beasting' too, haha seriously though this has been suggested to me a couple of times. Worth a shot x

  • Hills are hard! But, just like all the runs in C25K, conquering them is fun and rewarding. The route I've used for most of my C25K runs includes a nasty hill so I've been building up a resistance to them the whole time I've been running. I definitely feel the benefit of that now that I've graduated!

    Perhaps you could try some of the earlier podcasts in a hilly area to build up your ability (and confidence) to run up hills just as you built up your ability to run in the first place?

  • A lot of people have started the programme including the hills, I'm kinda wishing I did now, not going out of my way to avoid them. As now I have a different challenge to conquer when I should be just running. Hay ho trial and error!!

  • I avoided hills like the plague all the way to graduation - even the slightest incline freaked me out, to the extent that I ended up doubling back on myself when the runs reached 30 mins, because otherwise I would have had to go over what was more of a bump in the road than a hill and hardly visible to the naked eye.

    Then I realised that this was becoming really limiting, for example even our local parkrun includes a rather nasty hill (and you have to go up it 3 times), so unless I wanted to run the same route for the rest of my life, there was literally no way round it - I had to face hills.

    So I decided to take the bull by the horns, went to the park and actually did reps up the dreaded parkrun hill. I ran up (it's about a minute), jogged back down it and repeated the whole thing 8 times. Cured me off my hill phobia and to be quite honest, I don't actually mind them much now, in fact, I quite like the short sharp ones - the long, sloggy ones can be a bit of a pain....

  • I was interested to read this blog as where I live there are a couple of hills, one really steep and some roads with inclines although not obvious! I am getting better although when going up hills I am huffing and puffing but once I reach the top I am ok and on one occasion I have felt that I could have run further but decided not to push my luck (this was the first time I managed 5k in 53mins and 19 secs).

    I have often wondered whether I should speed up going up hills or take my time to conserve my energy; I tend to go with the latter!

  • When I started c25k the cirvular path I used had 4 small but steep hills - my very first run went up one! I felt like I could walk faster! Then one day I found I went up the hills without too much of a problem - I had learnt to breath & pace.

    Whoops :-) thought I'd deleted this by mistake!

  • I have similar experiences to the above. You soon learn to breath & pace them - also hills are made of parts - some bits are quite flat, often only a small section of hill is really steep. It's ok to walk you don't want to injure yourself by pushing yourself too much.

    Finally - hills build up speed - really :-)

  • There are two ways for people with low fitness levels (like me) to tackle hills - the dumb way and the smart way. The dumb way is by trying to use brute force -- a bit like those who think the gradual approach of C25K is for sissies and go out and try to run full on first up (they usually get injured and the hill usually wins) . The second way is the C25K way - the smart way - the "slowly slowly catchee monkey" way! :)

    Remember C25K W1D1 -- what did we do ? A short period of running followed by a short period of walking - rinse and repeat many times until Laura says you can stop. Why did we do that?? Well, because Laura said we had to -- but also it made sense for beginners to start to learn how to run that way. After 9 weeks, we can then run non-stop for x minutes :) THIS is the smart way to tackle hills for beginner runners (most of us!!) -- tackle ALL hills, big and small , on your run that way - commit to run/walk using short intervals until you can move up the ladder and lengthen the intervals, one day you may even be able to run up hills non-stop!! . The principle is exactly the same as we have already used effectively and efficiently!!!

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