How to avoid injury when you hit the hills:

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How to avoid injury when you hit the hills:

With the increase in popularity for long distance ‘skyrunning’ endurance events such as the upcoming Mourne Skyline Mountain-Trail Race, on Saturday 18th October 2014, we thought we would take a look at exactly how hill running can help in terms of running fitness and how to stay injury-free for longer.

The hill is your friend, embrace it!

Hills are all too often considered the enemy, viewed as an unnecessary evil, a wrecker of PBs, a monument of despair in an otherwise flat race course.  The truth is you need to learn to love the incline.  Hill running will make you a stronger, faster runner and can be added as part of a balanced training plan.

Working against gravity gets results:

Moving against gravity by uphill running activates and increases the size and strength of all your lower body muscles, strengthening tendons and ligaments, improving endurance and allowing you to run faster for longer distances.  Downhill running gives the quads experience of eccentric contractions (where the muscle elongates under tension), building durability and improving elastic recoil and energy return.   Hill running is particularly good for the muscle groups in the back of the leg, including the glutes, hamstrings and calves.

Hill running focuses your form:

Runners who incorporate hill running into their weekly regime soon find that both uphill and downhill running requires them to use proper biomechanical form.  Focusing the mind on running form can lead to improved running efficiency on the flat and more importantly to us physios, can really help reduce lower limb overuse injuries.

Some Tips on Technique:

When running uphill, we recommend you hit the ground with the front of the foot rather than the heel, that you shorten your stride length, engage your core and lean slightly forward into the hill.  Avoid overstriding which may cause the leg muscles to tighten and predispose the lower back to injury.  Running downhill, you should try taking shorter strides and quicken your cadence, taking lighter steps to land more on your midfoot, not on your heel.  Try to keep a slight bend in your landing leg to help reduce the impact transmitting up through your leg.  Resist the urge to lean too far back to brake as you descend as this may cause lower back problems.

Hill sessions: The benefits…

There are three types of hill session.  We recommend, as with all new training, that you avoid the temptation to do too much too soon.  However, by doing one of these hill sessions per week, you should see real benefits both in terms of your race times and your running fitness.

Hill sprints:

Running for 10-15 seconds up a steep hill at maximum effort with a 2-3 minute recovery between repeats.  These hill sprints activate neuromuscular communication between the brain and muscles, boosting leg-muscle power to give you quicker, longer strides.

Long Hill Repeats:

A good example of this type of workout is 10 x 90 second hill repeats at a hard effort with a walk or jog back downhill for recovery.  The forceful contractions caused through the glutes and quads make this type of hill session a great form of strength training.

Rolling Hills Training:

By bringing some rolling hills into your long run route, you can practice for the specific conditions of a hilly race, preparing your muscles and mindset for the challenge ahead.

The team from Apex Clinic is really looking forward to seeing many of you at the Mourne Skyline Mountain-Trail Race on Saturday 18th October 2014, where our physios will be treating aching limbs with soothing sports massage.   Meanwhile, we suggest you take to the hills and bring new heights to your running fitness.