Tackle The Hills
Although the runDisney courses don’t have crazy hard hills—and, we admit, we’re thrilled they don’t—taking on some climbs while training will make you a stronger, faster runner simply by getting to the top. (We often call hills the best BOGO going: strength + speed in one inclined package.) When you approach a hill on a run, here are some ways to make it (relatively) easier:
Pace yourself. On a short hill—less than 30 seconds—you can put the gas pedal and your head down and just summit the puppy. But on anything longer than that, it's helpful to think about the climb as a well-paced race: start slow and get stronger. It's a huge buzzkill when you’re halfway up a hill and feel like you want to quit, hurl, or both. If you think conservatively at the bottom, you have nowhere to go but up. (Hah.)
Arm yourself. Runners live in their legs, but we have four limbs for a reason. (And that reason isn't just to fold laundry, wash dishes, pick up piglets and wipe bottoms.) Your feet follow the rhythm your arms set, so get your groove on with your arms. Keep your elbows bent to 90 degrees, and then swing them tightly so your wrists to your elbows graze your sides. When you start a climb, consciously think about transferring the power from your legs to your arms and visualize your arms are doing at least 60 percent of the work of the climb.
Keep your feet quick. Big, lurching steps don't serve you well while running in general, but when it comes to hills, they handicap you big time. Keep your steps short and quick—it can feel a little unnatural, FYI—so you can climb as effectively as possible. Lean into the hill slightly, which makes it feel like you’re not fighting gravity so intensely. Finally, if your calves are whining, make sure you use a full foot strike, and not just stay on your forefoot.
Break it up. If the hill feels intimidating, do not focus on the top. Instead, give yourself mini-goals that will get you to the top: make it to that puddle, that crack in the pavement, that tree. Each taste of success gets you that much closer—and more motivated to get to—the top.
Aim High. Try to not peter when you hit the top of the hill. Get up and over it and then crest it to leave your mark on it. How? Run hard for 10 more steps once you feel the hill level out. Although it's easy in theory because you’re either on flat ground or heading down, it can be challenging in reality. I made it to the top of this fierce hill, and now you want me to continue to run hard? Who are you: my mother?
Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell are the authors of Another Mother Runner and official contributors to runDisney.