Run for the Hills!

…a small tip for getting back to running.

If patients in my office are a somewhat representative sample of the entire population of people with orthopedic issues, there are many people in the “I’d like to get back to running” boat. They want to run for weight management, fitness, or because they enjoy it. But they can’t because they’re coming off an injury. Others simply feel “out of shape”, coming off a long period of sedentary living. They assume that walking is good (it is), but they want to increase the intensity and benefit of their time in exercise.

Conventional wisdom says to progress jogging with a gradual increase in time duration , walking the hills until you get in shape. But I say to attack the hills for a relatively short duration of whatever effort that you can safely muster. Walk (or stand and rest) for however long you need until attacking the next hill. It is difficult to suffer injury while running up hill*, especially if you’re conscientious of proper warm up and mobility of the hips and ankles.

With the standard advice of a steady build up in jogging time or mileage, many folks usually start to hit a wall around the thirty minute mark, and they’re back to square one.cemetery hill

At this point it’s necessary to recall that impact is usually the primary bad guy when it comes to running injuries. So…manage impact! Monitor and modify how much of a beating the knees, hips and lower back will need to tolerate in your fitness endeavors. Running hills demands that you pour on the effort, but the strides and flight time are relatively short, with impact greatly reduced. That’s why hills are one of the best ways to “get in shape” relatively quickly while sparing the joints yet toughening the muscles and tendons for the strain of long duration jogging.

If you’re new to exercise, don’t imagine that you MUST jog to get in shape. If you enjoy jogging, get in shape to jog, and try not get hung up on traditional long distance, low- or moderate intensity standard. Hit the weights and use some imagination.

So find a grassy hill or a small, private drive. You will be surprised at how quickly your appearance and fitness level improve.

Just one problem…

While hill sprints do not cost much in terms of money or even time, the hill will ALWAYS kick your butt. Hill sprints (or even walks) are difficult, and I do not anticipate the masses who want to lose weigh and get fit crowding up the local hills. Or, as the great Ronnie Coleman would probably put it:

“Errbody want to be healthy and look good…

     But ‘aint nobody want to run them steep-ass hills.”


*Select orthopedic issues such as Achilles tendinopathy and some types of lower back pain MAY be irritated with hill sprints, although I have yet to hear a person actually complain of this.

2 thoughts on “Run for the Hills!

  1. Nice article Bob. Time to look for more hills on my next run as opposed to avoiding them! I guess I need to actually avoid the downhill to spare the jarring of my back.


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