By Jennifer Fink, Moms on the Run coach
"Don’t waste the downhill!" This was my mantra for the first five years of my running career. The women I coach through Moms on the Run heard my chant on every downhill. I would proudly proclaim that I could walk up the hill and more than make up the time by burning the downhill.
I still love the downhill, and will continue to share and preach my affection for the exhilaration of the ride. But toward the end of last year, my perspective changed. This quote seemed to sum it up perfectly:
"Most of us try to avoid hills, but what is so good about that? Think about it. Flat tires, flat hair, flat returns, and the ultimate, flatlining. LIFE HAPPENS ON THE HILLS. They’re an opportunity to prove to yourself that you are stronger than you ever imagined. If you never attempt the ascent, you’ll never know the thrill of swooshing down the other side. Be a hill seeker." (author unknown)
Whether it is in life, or on a run, hills don’t go away. They wait for you. So, how can you use them to become stronger and more confident?
Here are my tips to help you embrace hills:
- Practice, Practice, Practice.
A few times a week, make space in your workouts for uphill repeats. You choose the gradient and pace. Push slowly up, walk at the top if needed, run the downhill -- and repeat. Slowly increase the number of repeats as you become stronger. Eventually, your glutes will start to recognize the uphill, while your quads and calves do the same with the downhill. Practice both so that when in a race, your muscles draw from kinetic memory.
- Visualize Your Success
Imagine a big balloon at your back, pushing you up the hill. Or envision a cable, pulling you upward. See yourself run through, to the top of the hill, with ease. With enough practice, you will start to “see” your success. Research indicates that mental rehearsal is almost as effective as physical practice, and that doing both is more effective than practicing either alone. Seeing really is believing!
- Check Your Speed.
Like a roller coaster ride, part of the enjoyment and thrill of the downhill is built during the measured ascent to the top. Apply the same approach in running hills. Expect to start slower on your way up and increase your speed on the downhill. Use this technique to conserve your power. It will keep you from burning out during your ascent, saving energy for the thrill on the other side.
What would you do if you realized you were strong enough to do it?
Looking for a supportive, all-women's environment to help prepare for your next fitness goal? Check out Moms on the Run to find the location nearest you.
Jennifer Fink is a coach with two Moms on the Run locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, White Bear Lake and Shoreview. Since she first started the program six years ago, she has shed 40 pounds and become the Queen of Motivation. She has run 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, six Ragnar Relays and the 2015 Twin Cities Marathon.