12 Powerful Tips for Running Up Hills

Not many folks LIKE running up hills. But if you are one of those people or you want to be more like that, here are a few good thoughts on how to be a hill running beast! So, let’s dive into some tips and tricks that will help you run stronger and with more ease on those hilly trails.

1. First and foremost, the best way to become a better uphill runner is to run up hills regularly. Repetition is key here. Your body adapts and gets better at things it does often, so it’s important to make hill running a regular part of your training routine. Not only will it help you build the necessary strength and endurance, but it will also help you develop the proper technique for running uphill. I know. What kind of tip is that? You wanted to know how to be faster up hills without having to work so much. Sorry!

2. Proper technique is essential. First and foremost, maintain good posture. Keep your chest up and open, your head and eyes up, and your shoulders relaxed. Shortening your stride and keeping your feet beneath you, rather than ahead, can also help you maintain good form and posture.

3. To generate more power and speed when running uphill, think about pushing the ground down and away from you with your knee and ankle action, and utilizing plantar flexion (pushing off the ground with your toes). You can also use your arms as pistons or, as I often do, think of the rhythm of “drumming” with your arms to help drive your legs forward.

4. And don’t forget to be ready to up the pace just before reaching the crest of the hill. In a race, this tactic can take the competition off guard and provide that “break away” that you wanted.

5. If you encounter a particularly steep hill, try pushing down on your knees with your hands to help drive yourself forward. And, if you’re really struggling or want to go even faster, consider trying out poles, which can help distribute some of the effort and make the climb feel more manageable. If I have the option to use poles in a race with lots of “vert”, I will certainly take advantage of that!

Running uphill is almost as much mental as physical. Here are some strategies that can help you run strong while going UP!

6. One such trick is to go ahead and attack the short hills, but think efficiency, rhythm and even pacing/effort on long hills. 

7. Hiking can also be a faster, smarter option on hills that are particularly steep or challenging. Give your running muscles a break, go into a fast hike and then resume your run when the slope allows.

8. Knowing the route and what to expect will help you mentally prepare for the climb. Additionally, staying loose and relaxed, focusing on an efficient and even effort is helpful.

9. You might also try these mental tricks- One is to think of your feet as popping off the ground like popcorn. This can help you focus on light, quick steps rather than heavy, plodding strides. Another is to lean forward from your ankles without hunching over or bending at the waist. Keep leaning until your are forced to take a step to avoid falling. This is the feeling you want to have going up hill. Use gravity and your quick “popcorn popping” steps, by way of your body lean, to make the hill flatter! So cool, right?

10. Finding a rhythm, focusing on your breathing, and picking intermediate targets will help you stay focused and motivated during the climb. There have actually been scientific studies showing that picking intermediate targets along the way is significantly effective. Your eyes inform your brain. Your brain decides this is possible and provides the engagement of resources to pull you up.

11. Keeping a positive mindset can make all the difference. I like to use positive mantras of a sort for motivation. Come up with a good one you like. I will often use something like, “fit, fast, strong”  when the going gets tough. It works even better if it enhances the rhythm and even the breathing pace that I want to feel. 

12. Build your core strength. Your core muscles provide stability and support, which allows for more efficient use of propulsive muscles like your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. A stronger core will also help you maintain proper posture and breathing, which is crucial for running uphill. So, be sure to incorporate core-strengthening exercises into your training routine and practice them often.

Happy running!


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Hi, I'm Coach Steve Roguski

Owner of the store with my wife, Genevie. I have enjoyed many years of running, racing, race directing, running club volunteering, reading about running and leading runs and clinics through the store. Happy trails!