When approaching uphill, many runners tend to slow down thinking they will conserve energy, but reducing your speed when running up a hill may increase your work-rate because it induces mechanical parameters that trigger muscular fatigue. Here is why you want to avoid reducing your speed during uphill running.
Don’t Slow Down When Running Up a Hill
If you often feel ‘draggy’ when running uphill, you might not be landing properly on your forefoot. In any case, you want avoid heel striking uphill, as well as during running in general. In addition to this, run a little faster, don’t slow down when going uphill!
If you run slowly up a hill, foot-ground contact time is longer which is associated with higher peak impact, causing the recruitment of more muscle fibers to help attenuate shock, making you prone to lower leg injuries and of course, muscle fatigue.
Another problem with running too slow up a hill is that it mechanically makes you less efficient whereby the spring-like bouncing motion becomes impaired when ground contact time is greater (Farley et al. 1991). A number of studies by reputable scientists have indeed proven that this spring mechanism, most optimized when landing on the forefoot, conserves mechanical energy, especially at level ground running, but in order to tap into this when running up a hill, you need to inject a little speed as well as make sure your stride is shortened and step frequency increases.
- Speed is something that optimizes our mass-spring ability when we run, however during uphill running, going all-out may not be the safest approach, but you should gently increase your running speed in order to optimize the body’s natural mass-spring behavior.
- Other work has found that slower runners had the greatest variation in mass-spring parameters whereby these runners changed their mass-spring parameters in a way that encouraged longer ground contact time as compared with faster runners during an uphill race (Giovanelli et al. 2016)
Faster running speeds while landing on the forefoot also results in lower oscillation of the torso (center mass) (Lazzer et al. 2014; Spurrs et al. 2003), which is associated with lower energy costs by enhancing elastic energy storing and releasing in the muscle-tendon complexes of the leg (Spurrs et al. 2003).
So, put on a smile and don’t be afraid to push a little harder up the hill. It’s a great way to get stronger both mentally and physically.
More From Run Forefoot:
Farley CT, Blickhan R, Saito J, Taylor CR. Hopping frequency in humans: a test of how springs set stride frequency in bouncing gaits. J Appl Physiol 71: 2127–2132, 1991.
Giovanelli et al. Effects of an Uphill Marathon on Running Mechanics and Lower-Limb Muscle Fatigue. Int J Sports Physio Perform, 2016, 11, 522-29.
Lazzer S, Taboga P, Salvadego D, et al. Factors affecting metabolic cost of transport during a multi-stage running race. J Exp Biol. 2014;217:787–795.
Spurrs RW, Murphy AJ, Watsford ML. The effect of plyometric training on distance running performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2003;89:1–7.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
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