Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Hills...

Amy invited me to run a 4 mile loop near her house on Saturday, and of course I was happy to join. Her and her jogging buddy were so sweet, and totally slowed down to keep up with my pace. What she didn't accurately describe are the MASSIVE hills that were involved in this run. I promise 2 miles of it was COMPLETELY up hill. I have only been running on flat trails, so this was a BIG change for me. After the run, I was exhausted and my butt and thighs are STILL sore! Apparently running up hills is great for training and conditioning. Here is some information I found about the benefits.

In hill running, you are using their body weight as a resistance to push against, so the driving muscles from which their leg power is derived have to work harder. The technique to aim for is a "bouncy" style where you have good knee lift and maximum range of movement in the ankle. You should aim to drive hard, pushing upwards with your toes, flexing your ankle as much as possible, landing on the front part of the foot and then letting the heel come down below the level of the toes as the weight is taken. This stretches the calf muscles upwards and downwards as much as possible and applies resistance which overtime will improve their power and elasticity.

You should look straight ahead, as you run (not at your feet) and ensure your neck, shoulders and arms are free of tension. Many experts believe that the "bouncy" action is more important than the speed at which you run up the hills.

Hill work results in the calf muscles learning to contract more quickly and thereby generating work at a higher rate, they become more powerful. The calf muscle achieves this by recruiting more muscle fibres, around two or three times as many when compared to running on the flat. The "bouncy" action also improves the power of the quads in the front of the thigh as they provide the high knee lift that is required.

Hill training offers the following benefits:

  • Helps develop power and muscle elasticity
  • Improves stride frequency and length
  • Develops co-ordination, encouraging the proper use of arm action during the driving phase and feet in the support phase
  • Develops control and stabilization as well as improved speed (downhill running)
    promotes strength endurance
  • Develops maximum speed and strength (short hills)
  • Improves lactate tolerance (mixed hills)

My goal is to incorporate this run into my workout, so that I can get even stronger for the marathon. I did check right after this run and the course at Kiawah Island is supposed to be really flat... thank goodness!!