Tips For Running Uphill

Get over it. End of post.

I’m hilarious right? :-P

No really, today we’re going to talk about hill running. I personally love hilly runs. My area is pretty hilly so all of my runs have various uphills and downhills. I feel like I do better in hilly races, which is why I’m kind of nervous for the Philly Half which is pretty flat. 

I feel like my strength lies in hill running, and I regularly had my XC team do hill sprints during our season. So let’s talk about tips!

Hill Running Tips

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Climb the rope. As you’re running uphill, use your arms for power. I like to envision myself pulling a rope to climb up. With every arm swing, I’m grabbing the rope and pulling myself up. It might be a silly visualization, but it works for me! Don’t let your arms just flail around as you get tired. Move them with strength and purpose. The more powerful your arm swing, the faster you’ll go and stronger you’ll feel.

Knee drive. Power through the knees. One cue I like is, “drive your knees.” Basically, drive your arms and knees forward with power and really focus on having that power. Half of it is a mental battle, and if you make yourself feel strong you will be. Lift your knees up with every step and push forward.

Maintain even effort. This can be hard in a 5K race, where you want to maintain a certain pace, but don’ t try to do this on a hill. If it’s a steep, steady climb, you’ll hate yourself about halfway through. Once you get to the hill, slow down and maintain 5K effort. Focus on your breathing and how you feel. If it starts feeling tougher, slow down a bit and just keep going.

Accelerate at the end. When most runners get to the top of a hill in a race they slow down a bit to catch their breath and recover. This is your chance to pass them! Start training to speed up at the top of a hill. I do this outside and on a treadmill, and have my runners do it too. Add hill intervals to the end of a run, then once you get to the top accelerate as much as you can once it flattens out (for about 15-20 seconds, then rest & repeat). This will train you to speed up even when you’re legs are fatigued, and you’ll feel awesome passing runners once you crest a hill.

Practice mental strength. For me, mantras and visualizations help me during tough runs. On hills, I just keep telling myself that I’m running on flat ground. When the going gets tough, have a mantra or something ready that you’ll repeat to yourself. Or simply just have a mental image of you feeling strong, looking strong, and powering up a hill like an elite runner. Sounds cheesy but we all know mental strength plays a huge factor in running!

Do you have a mantra or phrase you use in your running?

Do you prefer hilly courses or flat courses? I like moderately hilly!


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  1. I think that you learn so much about yourself and your running when you take the hills. That’s part of why I wrote my Embrace the Hill, Ride the Downhill post. I love the hill (to an extent) and I need them for races because it gets my glutes to reengage!
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…For Shame: Stop the Life, Sport, Fitness ShamingMy Profile

  2. Good tips. I started maintaining my speed after the hill – so similar to the accelerate, don’t back down when you hit the top, keep the effort level. I try not to loo up at the hill and sometimes I find myself counting to 8 over and over or counting my foot fall. It’s the little things sometimes ;-)

    • I like the counting to 8 or the footfalls tips…good way to kind of distract yourself and keep chugging a long. I have a hilly 5k this weekend – I’ll try this out!

  3. My running mantra is “The body achieves what the mind believes.” I hate hills! Like with a passion lol
    Daisy @ Fit Wanderlust Runner recently posted…My Favorite Things to Do After A RaceMy Profile

    • I like that mantra too! And I love hills haha. I feel like they give me an energy boost in races. Unless they’re super steep – then I really hate them lol

  4. I really don’t mind hills. While we don’t have that many in Florida, I enjoy the change of incline when I travel. Except I definitely have had my fill for a while after the marathon this weekend!
    Emily @MyHealthyishLife recently posted…NYC Marathon RecapMy Profile

  5. I ran a hilly route yesterday, and though I have a love/hate relationship with hills, the times I can keep running over hills set me up so nicely for the rest of the run because it’s not as hard in comparison. Sometimes I even speed up a little on the hills, reminding myself I will be rewarded with flat ground soon. I like to chant to myself “the ground is rising to meet my feet” and “I can do hard things.”
    Nora recently posted…Getting Out of a Running RutMy Profile

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