Up Hill Training

Running up hill is hard work. It is hard work that pays off quickly.  Up hill running is one of the quickest ways to improve cardio stamina and build strength.  Need a little know-how or tips?  Keep on reading... 

Why run UPHILL?!?

  • Running up hill gets your heart and muscles in shape FAST!  
  • Hill work is like doing a strength/resistance training workout, the potential muscles that will become more defined: calves, quads, butt, and arms!
  • It makes you faster on all types of surfaces.
  • Up hill running is a good way to avoid typical injuries like shin splints and tendonitis (just don't be speedy going back down the hill).
  • The potential for finding beautiful views is highly likely!
  • It's a good reason to do a short run.

So what would a hill workout look like?

Hill Sprints: Find a hill that you can run up at a consistent pace for approximately 60-90 seconds. Run to the location, if its an option, for a warm-up.    Run up hill at your 5k race pace (so pretty fast, but not an all-out sprint).  After 60-90 seconds walk or lightly jog back down to your starting point.  Repeat 3-4 times the first workout.  Do this workout once a week.  Increase your repeats each week (by one or two hills) until you can do 8-10 repeats.  

Consistent-Pace Hills:  Hopefully you encounter hills on some of your daily runs or long runs. Most people slow down when running up hill on a regular, everyday kind of run.  However, these can be a good opportunity to do an impromptu hill workout.  Here's what you do:  when approaching a hill maintain your "flat-surface" speed all the way to the top.  That's it!  It will feel like you are speeding up, but that's just gravity trying to pull you down :D

Long Hills:  Instead of focusing on how fast you are going up a hill, just run up (steady, slow pace) without stopping for as long as you can.  Running on trails and in mountainous areas can be a good place for this type of hill training.

***Any of these hill workouts can be simulated on a treadmill.


Biomechanics: When running up shorten your stride and keep your head erect, don't look down...your head is heavy and will slow you down if it is hovering out in front of you.  Lift your knees high, and push off on your toes.  


Pro Tip: I wouldn't recommend doing a hill workout the day before or after a long run, race, or speed workout.  If you did light runs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with a long run on Saturday or Sunday, I would recommend you do a hill workout on Tuesday or Thursday (in-between regular days), or replace one of the regular days with the hill workout. 


Regulating mood disorders with running

A common assessment strategy therapists use when a client is reporting depressive symptoms is a simple tracking calendar.  For a week a person will be asked to record hour-by-hour activities.  As the therapist I'm looking for patterns in the person's routine that may indicate emotional dysregulation. 

Emotional dysregulation---the cause of the depressive symptoms--- is often a result of an imbalance in the brain chemistry or hormonal makeup of a person.  The factors that contribute most to a person's sense of emotional regulation, sometimes referred to as a sense of well being, are things like sleep, diet, and exercise.  

It should be noted that some people require medication to improve any imbalance in this chemistry/hormonal makeup.  This will be true for chronic mood disorders like bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder.  However, all mood imbalances can be improved by treating any of those regulatory factors: sleep, diet, and exercise.  Some mood symptoms are entirely eradicated by making lifestyle adjustment that improve sleep, diet, and/or exercise.  Some symptoms only improve with a combination treatment.  

If a person is sleeping poorly and mostly sedentary it would not be uncommon to see that person suffering from lack of motivation, feelings of low satisfaction, self worth, and well being.  They would seem depressed.  That is because the sleep and sedentary behavior lowers dopamine levels in the brain responsible for motivation, it lowers norepinephrine which softens the ability to focus, and the combination reduces serotonin responsible for feelings of satisfaction and happiness.  And voila, the recipe for a depressed mood.  This article won't get into it, but these things are also impacted by negative self-talk, past trauma's, and stress/anxiety.  

Running, and other forms of cardio exercise are a wonderful treatment option for a person that falls into these sorts of depressive patterns because running increases dopamine, increases norepinephrine, and serotonin.  It is these brain chemicals that contribute to the "runner's high" that is commonly experienced by routine runners.  In addition, people who run consistently report sleeping better, and tend to be conscientious about what they are putting into their bodies.  In short, running helps to regulate a person's neurological chemistry and directly impacts depressive mood symptoms.  

Some runners report that when they run they get into a state of "flow".  Flow is defined by the brain associating hard word with motivation and focus leading to feelings of fulfillment and enjoyment.  What neuroscience tells us is that flow is caused by an increase in dopamine and norepinephrine which is the byproduct of the physical effort behind running.  

I hope this is helpful information for anyone seeking to improve their life through lifestyle changes like regular running.    

14 Day Anxiety Challenge for Runners

Anxiety is when a person worries excessively, feels apprehensive, is restless, irritable, tense, stressed, or easily fatigued.  Everyone experiences anxiety.  However, if it starts to interfere with your daily life making some lifestyle changes and/or seeking therapy may be something to consider.  

In the spirit of self-care I've created the first of many "challenges".  You've maybe seen similar challenges floating around on pinterest, instagram, and the like.  I thought I'd try my hand at it and create a challenge for people interested in reducing/managing their anxiety that already have an established running routine.  Exercise has been shown to be an effective tool for managing stress and anxiety.  Other effective tools are meditation, deep breathing, and relaxation trainings.     

If you don't run this can easily be adjusted for walkers.  Walking produces many of the same stress relieving effects as running.  

I'd recommend runs/walks reflect your current practices, or build your endurance gradually.  


Homage to Coach and Adding to My Professional Credentials

Last December I was giving out some unsolicited running advice to a friend.  He said, "how do you know so much about running?"  I responded quickly, "I had a really great coach."  Then a couple months ago I was invited to a Facebook group to honor my long distance running coach from high school.  He is retiring.  I have very fond memories of him, my team, and our adventures.  

Both moments really got me reflecting on the importance of a good coach.  I've had a few coaches, and they were all good, but the first one, Coach Young, was by far the best and most influential.  He didn't just design workouts and hold us accountable.  He fostered a sense of community, he taught us the fundamentals of running technique, performance, and injury prevention/care.  He took us to beautiful places, even took us camping once a year; he made running a lifestyle.  He pushed us further than we thought we could go, and was supportive through all the ups and downs.  I came away from it all not just knowing how to run, but how to live well.      

For years I've been contemplating getting the credentials to be a running coach.  Now I'm actually doing it!  I have some lofty ideas and goals, but my number one hope is to be just a smidgen as good of a coach as Coach Young.  If I can do that, then I'll call it success.

I hope you can join me on this journey.