Running Hills: The Definitive Guide

Running hills efficiently is one of the most important (and challenging) trail running skills. Actually, it's a combination of several different skills: you need to master both ascending and descending, learn when walking is best, improve your balance and spacial awareness, as well as your overall strength if you want to excel in hilly or mountainous races.

If you want to run hills with the least effort (and who doesn't?) then developing the correct techniques during training are a must.


how to run hills

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'How do I master hills?': Upping your running game

'How do I master hills?': Upping your running game

We runners all know how beneficial hills are to our training. We know they make us leaner, stronger and faster, but how should we use them in our running and when? This is a question we're regularly asked at Ultra Trail Spain by visitors who've come to train in the hills and mountains around us in Andalusia.

'Running hills: The definitive guide' brings together some of the best information to help you understand how to implement hill sessions in your own everyday training, how often, why it's important even if your goal race is flat, and when is the best time.

running hills

WHY? Because running hills efficiently makes for a more successful and enjoyable time on the trails.


For trail and ultra runners using ascents, and tackling descents with confidence, can make reaching that goal more enjoyable.

The ultimate list of the

Web's best links to:


Developing strength running hills

Running hill reps makes your muscles stronger. And while it might not feel like it at the time, this helps you run on the flat more efficiently.

While as an ultra runner, you're probably going to be walking most hills on race day, scheduling at least a couple of (short) specific hill sessions a month into your training will make you stronger. And who doesn't want strong fatigue-resistant muscles?




Get faster

Take it from us at Ultra Trail Spain - we're surrounded by mountains – tackling ascents on a regular basis boosts your cardiovascular system. Pushing yourself evenly and consistently uphill; it doesn't always need to be a sprint, gets your heart pumping and challenges your body. Training on hills is a win, win.



Helping you avoid injury

Since it's impossible to attack a steep incline as you might a speed rep on the flat, there's less risk of impact injuries. This is why hills are often favoured over track for those returning from injury.



Ascending strongly

If churning up big hills doesn't come naturally (we want to actually know for whom it does for), these websites are for you. From best form to activating the correct muscles, you'll find it here. We can't promise you'll find hills easier – they're not supposed to be – but they might pass that bit quicker!



Free to walk

Only the brave run every stride of an ultra marathon! Walking conserves energy and when getting to the end of a long and mountainous ultra is your ultimate goal, then steadying it down on the ascents makes lots of sense.

Learning to tackle those walk-ascents is a skill in itself and needs to be practised in your training. Get into a rhythm, keep moving positively forward, and learn the technique for you.




Running Form

We all know the importance of correct run form. Luckily it's difficult to over-stride while chugging uphill! The greatest challenge then comes from doubling over, reducing lung capacity, and putting pressure on the lower back. These resources are here to help.




Incorporating hill sessions

You're committed to hill training, but how often and when should you incorporate them in your schedule for maximum benefit. While those of us blessed with living in hilly parts of the world don't have much choice, there are ways to utilize different hills for ultimate gain. For those not living in mountainous areas – hang in there – the next chapter gives you some support!





Hill training without hills

Training for races with big vertical gains is indeed possible even if you live on the flat. It may involve some creative thinking and a greater commitment to the gym, but you can train for running uphill without training in the mountains.
Use every 'hill' you can find. Think outside the mountain and use car park ramps, stairs, and paths running alongside underpasses – just make sure it's safe to do so – for maximum elevation gain.



CHAPTER 9 (bonus chapter)

The descending conundrum

Available on the PDF download.

how to run hills

Download a free PDF version of this guide to Running Hills.

Contains a bonus chapter:

The descending conundrum


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