Running or racing in hilly mountains or roads is very different than running on flat terrains when it comes to which muscles are used and how. To focus on activating and strengthening the specific muscles that we rely on during high elevation runs, is very important for a successful and injury free run. You want to build up an optimal running technique, mobile hips, strengthen the glutes, core and muscle strength. When you are training for a race with many hills you want to focus on three key muscle groups.
Hamstrings: Running uphill requires knee and hip flexion during the “swing phase”. Hamstrings are one of the most important muscle groups for runners training for elevation. To be able to maintain a good running form during a hilly race, hamstring strength endurance is crucial for a successful and pain-free race. Make sure you include some hamstring strength exercises in your training.
1.Stability ball curls or TRX hamstring curls
2.Stability ball or TRX reverse bridge
3.Single leg deadlift
4.Reverse lunge holding weights
Spinal Erectors: Very often we see runners hunched over from the waist, bent in two when going uphill. The higher they get, the more they collapse forward. The muscles that work to maintain a proper spinal extension (erector spinae, quadratus lumborum etc..) have to overwork to maintain an effective running torso position. The more the tired we get, the more the trunk angle increases, this is a symptom of runner’s fatigue running uphill. The key is to strengthen the back and core muscles to avoid this bent over position.
Back and core strengthening exercises:
4.Squats, Lunges (different versions)
Calves: Running uphill is really tough on the calves, especially when running steep hills, as most runners strike the ground on the front of the foot. This is a heavy loading pattern for the muscles of the lower leg, and if the lower leg muscles and calves get tight, then this can cause other issues such as Achilles injuries.
Calf strengthening exercises:
1.Single-leg calf raise
2.Jump rope is a great way to strengthen the calves
Train Hard, Eat Right, Feel Great!