I live in a particularly hilly area and have just finished c25k. I have mostly run around the neighbourhood for the past 8 weeks and as a result the vast majority of my runs have incorporated some kind of hill. For example, the elevation on my 5km route looks like this:

Made by onthegomap.com

Today it occurred to me that it may not be a good idea to run these kinds of hills every run (in my case, 3x a week). How should I be structuring my runs? Is it okay to continue like this, or should I incorporate a flatter run into my route on a regular basis?

As an example, this is a 6.2 km route which is mostly downhill/flat for the first 4.5 km. I usually walk up the hill for the last 1.2km or so. This route is for when I want to have an easier run that's more flat or downhill.

thanks again to onthegomap.com


Optimally, you should have a mix of flat and hilly terrain in your runs. However, if you are running on just hills, then you'll still be getting plenty of physiological benefit. Try to find more flat areas (explore new routes or drive somewhere), but don't worry if you can't change your running routes as much as you'd like. I would recommend hilly routes for around half or less of your weekly runs, so in your case, 1 or maybe 2 days out of the week.

Here are some tips for how you should do easy runs on hills:

  • Don't worry about pace - focus on effort. Uphills slow you down, so it's okay if you're not going as fast.
  • Do some eccentric leg exercises (squats and calf dips for example) to prevent injury from running uphill and downhill
  • Don't run too fast downhill. There is a lot of force coming down on your heel (it's impossible to run on your forefoot on steep downhills), so go a little slower and run with shorter strides.
  • Thanks for your response. I have just come off of 6 months of strength training (squat, deadlift, benchpress) and found that my quads were fine with running uphill thanks to that. I'd like to go back to doing strength training but will have to figure out a way to fit it into my routine with the running. Running fast downhill is something i've had to be careful of. Initially I went too slow, and then too fast, and now I think I've got the pace more or less okay. Earlier this week I did 1.5km in 11 min which was a personal best for me (<8min/km) especially since it was quite hilly.
    – user5376
    Oct 24 '15 at 20:23
  • Cool. So, actually, in addition to making running easier uphill (and on flats), squats also prepare your legs for the downhill impact, thus reducing the risk of injury.
    – user15313
    Oct 24 '15 at 20:51
  • Great, I didn't know that. I'll definitely continue with those too.
    – user5376
    Oct 24 '15 at 21:13
  • @stacey What may help for running hills in addition to the great advice from mathguy54 is to maintain the same effort on down hills by using a fast turn over rate or cadence while pushing off and wideng your strides to maintain effort on uphill sections. Also, do speed work on the flatter parts even if you have to do circles. Where I live its too flat :)
    – Jason
    Jan 29 '16 at 22:44

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