HOW TO UP YOUR MENTAL GAME FOR HILL RUNNING
You read it on your training program, or make your mind up that it’s a good idea to do hills… and then comes the moment where you have your shoes laced tight, and you’re standing at the bottom of your chosen hill staring up.
Standing at the bottom of the hill is akin to the predictable “evil villain is coming music” from the movies. The protagonist of the film, aka you, is about to have to overcome a real challenge.
Walking, jogging, running, or sprinting full speed, the challenge varies depending on your athletic level, but the characteristics of the hill and benefits are often very similar. You feel great when you’ve finished, because you’ve really accomplished something and gotten a great workout.
But what about those times where you give up? You don’t finish the hills you were so determined to run, and you end up feeling defeated… here are some tips to overcome the mighty hill and be triumphant.
That’s right carpe diem, seize the opportunity to be your best, you show that hill who’s boss!
DO: BE REALISTIC
You absolutely want to challenge yourself, but you also want to do so with “SMART” goals in mind. We’ve all heard the acronym before, but just in case usually it stands for Strategic, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time sensitive (there’s some variation). So why not follow this protocol when you plan your next hill running session…
Strategic— Choose a workout that meshes with your goals. If you are training for hockey and typically are on the ice for 30 second shifts- why not try hill repeats that are less than a minute. If you are training for a marathon, maybe longer intervals and more repeats make sense. You decide, just consider your goals.
Measurable— Tracking progress is often worthwhile and helps you gauge your performance, improvement, and response to training. For example, some worthwhile indicators are time, speed, and heart rate. Not feeling very technical, perhaps a simple 1-10 scale of how you felt recorded in a journal to review at a later date.
Attainable— Set yourself up for success with workouts you can finish and feel good about.
Realistic— What kind of shape are you in really? Even if you’re not training for a marathon, it’s still figuratively a marathon. Meaning, you don’t become Olympic champion overnight, improvements take time and training. Consider your fitness level, and choose a workout appropriately.
Time Sensitive— Training takes time. Consider your window to “get your workout in” and schedule appropriately. Don’t rush the important elements like warm-up and cool down.
Don’t: Throw A Hail Mary
For all the reasons listed above, don’t attempt “Everest” repeats before you’ve first conquered a small hill.
DO: FIND A TRAINING PARTNER
Training partners are really helpful to share the ups and downs of training with, and are great motivators. The often used phrase “a good team is greater than the sum of its parts” can apply here. Meaning, you and your training partner(s) can achieve more together than you can solo.
DON'T: BE AFRAID TO "JOIN IN"
Running is a very universal sport, and also generally breeds a very accepting environment. For that reason, if you are having trouble finding people to run with, reach out to your local training clubs, learn to run organizations, or community sport and social organizations to find a “team” that makes sense for you.
DO: EMBRACE AN ELEMENT OF MENTAL TOUGHNESS
Hills are challenging, and a strong mental commitment and focus is often required to have a really great workout. Focus prior to your next hill training session on what it is you want to accomplish (times, feeling, strategy), and try and execute.
DON'T: TAKE MENTAL TOUGHNESS TO THE EXTREME
Listen to your body always! Pay attention to the way you feel, and don’t push through real pain. Always consult the appropriate experts if you are unsure about anything in particular.
DO: BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
Support yourself with this simple phrase, “I can do it”! Celebrate the little victories where you surprise yourself and make it happen, because good vibes create momentum for more good vibes!
DON'T: EMBRACE NEGATIVE INTERNAL DIALOGUE
If you consistently tell yourself “I can’t do this”, guess what… rather, try and eliminate the negative narrative in your head as much as possible.
In conclusion, hill running is both a great test of your fitness and also your mind. There are lots of ways you can make it easier on yourself and improve on this type of workout.
As Kara Goucher (U.S. Olympic marathoner) said, “Hill sprints are good for everyone!” (source AZ quotes)