Feb 23

Run Like a Girl: How to Run Uphill #runwithdara

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Let’s be real…running uphill isn’t easy. But here are some tips and tricks for how to run uphill that will make you a more efficient runner.
Run Like a Girl: How to Run Uphill #runwithdara | cookincanuck.com #running #exercise #fitness

There is no such thing as an easy uphill run, as least not in my world. However, I have come to appreciate the hills, in a “make me stronger”, “I am woman, hear me roar” kind of way.

It hasn’t always been that way, of course. When I first started running, I avoided hills like the plague, planning my route so that I would run in the most circuitous ways through the neighborhood to avoid even the smallest incline. I was already huffing and puffing. Why make things harder?

Living in hilly Utah, there are only so many ways you can run without coming upon a hill. I ran the same darn route so many times that I thought I was going to lose my mind or, worse yet, become so bored that I wouldn’t want to run anymore.

Run Like a Girl: How to Run Uphill #runwithdara | cookincanuck.com #running #exercise #fitness

It was time to take on the hills. But besides doing my best to not to keel over before reaching the top, how should I do it?

What are tips and tricks for running uphill?

Keep your eyes up

I know how tempting it is to look down at your feet, trying to ignore the existence of the hill. “If I don’t look at it, it won’t be real.”

Unfortunately, this ostrich-with-its-head-in-the-sand approach is doing you more harm than good.

If your eyes are looking down, it’s likely that your shoulders are slumped which, in turn, means that your lungs don’t have the ability to expand all the way to let in enough oxygen. And believe me, you’ll need oxygen to make it to the top!

For me, looking up also adds a psychological component of strength. I want to show that hill who’s boss and I can only do that if I’m looking it in the eye, so to speak. Look straight ahead and take it on!

Stand tall

Standing tall while running uphill puts your glutes into action. Those muscles are the driving force in powering you to the top of the hill. Leaning forward too much takes some of the power away from the glutes, putting more emphasis on the hamstrings.

I actually try to imagine a jackrabbit-type power coming from springing off of my toes and pushing through my glutes.

Move your arms

Someone once told me that my legs will follow along with my arms. I thought that sounded crazy at first, but then I started to pay attention to my arm swing, particularly when going through a tough patch during a run. When I concentrated on moving my arms more, everything with my legs seemed to come easily.

Concentrate on this as you’re running up the hill. Pump your arms. Don’t go overboard…you don’t want to do a speed-walking impersonation that may cause you to swivel your hips. But pump them enough to encourage your legs to keep moving.

If you have any other tips and tricks for running uphill, please share them in the comments section.

If you missed the last couple of Run Like a Girl posts, be sure to check them out. Cindy (our resident running coach from Kicking It In) shares her thoughts on focusing on the process, while I outline some ideas for what to eat before a run.

Running Posts | cookincanuck.com #running #runwithdara #exercise #fitness
Run Like a Girl: What to Eat Before a Run
Run Like a Girl: Focus on the Process

Have a great running week!

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chrissy February 23, 2014 at 5:51 am

I’m guilty of the head down! I don’t want to know where the top is. I count by 20s to 100 and repeat. I live in an area where it’s very hard to avoid hills – sad but true. I figure if what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
I just recently discovered your blog and am really enjoying it.


2 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) February 28, 2014 at 2:26 pm

So true…I have to remind myself that the hill is making my muscles and lungs stronger. It all helps in the end!


3 Lori @ RecipeGirl February 23, 2014 at 7:41 am

Great tips- thanks! P.S. I’m one of those who looks down at the ground… pretending like the hill isn’t there!!!!


4 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) February 28, 2014 at 2:27 pm

LOL. Believe me, I used to do that. Then I realized that the hill was controlling me, not the other way around.


5 Angie (MaybeMarathoner) February 23, 2014 at 9:19 am

Great comments! I write a running blog and recently posted about the same issue…http://maybemarathoner.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/tips-for-hills-how-to-let-your-freak-flag-fly/

Hope your series is inspiring tons of new runners! Love your recipes!


6 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) February 28, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Thanks so much, Angie! I’ll be sure to check out your post…I love the title of it.


7 Holly February 23, 2014 at 9:27 am

I think I’ll find a hill to conquer this week!! A high school cross country coach use to emphasize hill work as a way to gain on the rest of the field: pump the arms, lean slightly into the hill and shorten your stride. I have been so focused on simply getting through my runs that I had forgotten to enjoy the hills. Thanks!


8 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) February 28, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Shortening your stride is another great tip, Holly. Thanks for mentioning that!


9 Monday February 23, 2014 at 9:34 am

Hi, Dara!
Thank you SO much for the tutorials you are giving us on running like girls!
I am a “new” runner…still in the walk/run phase. I look forward to your posts more than you know…and they have (you have) encouraged me to take the first “running” steps, just last week. I walk very fast anyway, but I wanted to kick it up to running. You have so inspired me thru your plain talk and simple explanations, and being “real” about it all.
I have a couple of questions and you are welcome to email me privately, if you would prefer to answer there.
1. How do I know I have a great (for me) running shoe?
2. Are your recipes available in a “book” format?
Thank you and blessings,


10 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) February 28, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Monday, I’m so glad to hear that these posts are helping you! How awesome that you felt strong and added in some running to your workout! To answer your questions:

1) There is no perfect shoe for everyone. I recommend taking a trip to your local running store. They will watch you run (most have treadmills in the store) and make recommendations from there. Try on several different shoes and hop on the treadmill to figure out which shoe feels the best.

2) No, I don’t currently have a paper or e-book available. Hopefully that will be something that happens in the future!


11 Kirsten February 23, 2014 at 9:48 am

I live in Ohio, which is frankly flat as a pancake. Imagine my surprise when I realized there would be elevation changes on the half marathon course I’d signed up to walk. All of a sudden I had to add hills to my training. Having a big dog on a leash helped me train, but dogs aren’t allowed on the course.

Do you know what worked best for me? Music!

The biggest hill was right after mile 8, and pre-race I’d mentally psyched myself up that That Hill was the one I needed to conquer. I was delighted to hear a heavy metal band at the base of the hill (it was a highway on ramp) just wailing away on their guitars. They powered me up as long as I could hear them, then the tunes on my iPhone took over.
I was singing along, waving my arms, jumping (little bit) along to the music. I probably looked nuts, but I didn’t care! I went into a zone, going up that hill, and didn’t really come out of the haze until mile 12. Then I didn’t recognize anyone around me (I’d been with a pack of runner/walkers up until mile 8).
Apparently I really sped up while I’d gone into myself, and it was all due to the music from that metal band at the base of the biggest hill.


12 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) February 28, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Ack! That is tough when you realize that the race course involves elements that you haven’t trained for. I don’t run with music, but know many people who swear by it! It sounds as though that heavy metal song helped you conquer that hill. I can just picture you singing and waving your arms…classic!


13 Dgshaw February 23, 2014 at 10:01 am

When we start our hill running traing, we run a warm up mile, then run down a mile long hill and back up. At the top, we do 500 meter repeats. As many as we can up to 8. Usually I can do one or two repeats when we start but it does improve quite quickly…good form tips! Tucking your tail in, or thinking of a string pulling you up from the top of your head also seems to make a difference….


14 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) February 28, 2014 at 2:33 pm

That’s a fantastic workout! I like the thought tucking in your tail…thanks for adding that tip.


15 Alanna Kellogg February 23, 2014 at 10:29 am

I’m not a runner but a long-time mountain hiker and when approaching elevation changes there, the most impt thing is to shorten your stride even to the point of baby steps … I suppose it’s like moving to a higher gear on a bicycle … making it “easier” to make each step, letting your legs, not your hips do the work. With long legs, I was always tempted to just stretch my legs and keep moving but quickly found myself giving out. A guide in Switzerland reminded me that our hike was not a race — that slowing down let me enjoy the trail sights even more! Great post — am sure it will provoke much conversation!


16 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) February 28, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Alanna, shortening your stride is great advice. It allows you to keep the turnover of your legs steady while taking the pressure off of your hips. Thanks for adding that!


17 Steve February 23, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Great post!!! Another good tip is to focus on your effort and don’t worry about the drop in speed/pace.


18 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) February 28, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Absolutely! That’s such a great tip and one I forget about sometimes.


19 Trish @infinebalance February 24, 2014 at 7:05 am

I have no hills. None. I live in the flattest part of the world. I am grateful for no hills when I am running… Until I’m running somewhere new – a race or a place that is new to me and I am so not happy that I don’t get to run hills all the time.


20 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) February 28, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Oh yes, that makes those hills in a race touch, doesn’t it? Doing some hill work on a treadmill can definitely help to prepare for the race day hills.


21 Cindy @ Kicking it In February 24, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Love this post! I concur with Steve – keep your effort the same as it was prior to the hill – resist the urge to charge up it – your pace will slow but you will have more left once you crest so that you can recover running instead of having to walk because you left it all on the hill. Also, shorten your stride, lean forward just slightly (as you said, not too much) from the ankles and as you also mentioned, move your arms which will help power you up the hill.


22 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) February 28, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Thank you for weighing in, Cindy! I have the tendency to push my pace on the hill because I just want to get it over with, but I know that’s not always the way to go.


23 traci February 27, 2014 at 11:37 am

Seriously why has no one mentioned what you really should do? Pump up the Rocky BALBOA song give a kamikaze whoop to get you going then run up that hill like you own it. Or if you are running with an extra 50 pounds–I am often running with a toddler her million books and toys and jogger stroller so I strategically plan a downhill before the uphill to get some momentum going. Thanks for all the great tips.


24 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) February 28, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Traci, I love it! You really can’t beat the Rocky song for pumping you up for the hill.


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