Do you dread running hills as much as I do? There have been times when I almost start to panic when I see a hill coming up when I’m running a race, even if it’s a course I’m familiar with. It defeats me before I even get there. Correction: I SURRENDER to the hill before I even get there. But I’ve come up with a strategy for conquering these inanimate monsters that might help you, too.
Don’t Make Eye Contact. It works with wild animals, and it works with monster hills. When my kids are overwhelmed with a homework worksheet that has a ton of problems on it, I fold it in half so the amount of questions doesn’t seem so massive. Keep your eyes to the ground just a few feet in front of your feet. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Don’t worry about the hill, the whole hill. Just focus on those few steps in front of you, and keep going. Resist the urge to look up and gauge how much father you have to go. You’ll know when you’re at the top.
Slow it Down. You don’t have to run hills at the same pace you run flats. I would much rather run hills at a slower pace, than stop running to walk the thing because I over-did it at the beginning.
>I believe I can, and I will.
>I eat hills for breakfast.
>Don’t listen, don’t look, just run.
>Not going down, without a fight.
>Breathe in, breathe out.
Set a Goal. One of the 5K routes where I live includes a steep hill, and it’s not a short one. One of the things I do to get through it is to count my steps in series of 10. I don’t know why, but it helps. I tell myself that I can do ten paces up the hill. And I do. Then I count ten more. Each time I’m gauging how I feel and deciding whether I can do another ten without dropping to my knees and crawling the rest of the way.
Run hills on purpose. For the most part, I run loops in my neighborhood. It’s boring, but it ensures that my kids can find me if they need me. If I start my loop in one direction, I’ll go up a nice gradual incline, and then down the one hill with an intimidating incline. But I choose to go the other direction, which means I take that steep part head on. It’s short, but it’s steep, and when I haven’t been running consistently, it about kills me. If you don’t have a hill on your regular running route, find one, and run that puppy several times a week.
Maybe you won’t be able to make it up the whole hill without slowing to a walk. That’s okay. But it’s NOT okay to give up before you try to take the hill. Hills build your muscle strength by adding some resistance, and forcing you to use your muscles in a slightly different way. They make you stronger, they make you faster, and they prove that you can do more when you choose to do more.