Running Up a Hill Better than Speedwork on Level Ground

Running up a hill rather than doing fartleks on ground level may give you better running economy. How so?

Runners were found to put forth greater effort when running uphill than doing speed-work on level surfaces.

Running Up a Hill is Better Than Speedwork

Running Up a Hill Better than Speedwork on Level Ground

A study by Baron et al. found that runners tried harder, or went more ‘all-out’ when running uphill versus running on level surfaces.

  • The researchers found that the relative average speed was higher when runners ran uphill than on level surfaces and as the incline increased, so did the self-selected speed of the runners.

Their findings jives with other work which found that runners tend to push harder during shorter events.

No Emotional Suffering with Running Uphill

The researchers also examined emotional responses to running uphill, on level surfaces, and downhill and found that emotional responses were the same in all three conditions. In fact, running uphill was found to be more pleasurable compared with running downhill.

Therefore, the greater metabolic demands imposed by running uphill was no more emotionally taxing than running on level surfaces or downhill.

The Take Home Message

For some reason, forefoot running uphill unknowingly brings out the beast in us compared to running on level surfaces. There is something about a large hill that motivates us to accomplish our goals and with greater experience with forefoot running uphill, the more firepower you will have during a race.

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Baron et al. Emotional responses during repeated sprint intervals performed on level, downhill, and uphill surfaces, J Sports Sci, 2015; 33(5): 476-86.

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

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.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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