Six tips that’ll have you reaching the top of climbs with a smile on your dial and a spring in your step.
Not everybody has the natural talent of an elite athlete, and getting you’re A-into-gear is no easy feat when it comes to climbing. What’s more, by being an off-road trail junkie you’re instantly signing up for even more of a challenge, as uphills are made up of a combination of steep, technical rocky ascents, or enormous, monotonous stairs to climb.
What makes climbing so tough for most?
A general lack of mobility in the hips due to sedentary lifestyles (i.e. sitting at a desk all day) means many runners don’t experience good hip flexion and thus struggle with climbing. When you think about your hips and running up hill, you need the ability to get good flexion in the front of your hip, because your hip is responsible for the action of clearing your leg. Good hip flexion will also allow for better extension of your trailing leg.
Your gluteus muscle, AKA glutes, AKA bum, are one of the biggest muscles in your body. If functioning correctly, a lot of power can come from them, but if they’re ‘not firing’, your other muscles will start trying to compensate, which often leads to overuse-induced injury. Like weak hip flexors, the biggest contributing factor to inactive glutes is being seated for too long every day.
In the seated position, hip flexors tighten up which inhibits the glutes at the back from functioning properly. Starting from school at a young age and moving through university into office jobs, sitting is a major part of most people’s days. All the sitting deactivates the bum –so essentially, the chair is the biggest cause of dysfunctional glutes.
So how can you physically improve?
To improve your uphill running on the trail, you need to improve and work on getting mobility into the front and back of hips and ensure you have functioning glutes.
Tips to help you climb better:
1. Move every hour
Get up from your chair and move around once every hour at least. Make a snack, some coffee, talk to a colleague. Set an alarm on your mobile to remind you to move! On that note, encourage your kids, friends and family to do the same. Break the ‘sitting’ lifestyle pattern as early as you can.
2. Take the stairs (or do step ups at the gym)
Whether you increase the flights of stairs you’re hitting daily, or incorporate basic step ups into your gym work out, practicing the step-up action every day will help to activate your core, glutes and hips.
3. Mimic the Terrain
Aim to find terrain similar to the terrain you’ll be running in a race in order to give your muscles a chance to practice on the steep, demanding terrain.
4. Train on longer climbs
Train on longer, gradual climbs to teach your body about climbing endurance. If you don’t have mountains close by or live in a city, make the most of your immediate terrain, like stairs and roads.
5. Keep moving
No matter how slow you’re going, it’s faster than staying stationary – so keep moving forward all the time if you want to get to the top.
6. Power hike
Power hiking is NOT walking, but is does save energy compared to running, especially on the very steep, technical ascents. Put your hands on your knees (make sure your arm is a straight line from your shoulders to your knees – don’t collapse forwards), and go. Essentially, you’re changing your body into 4×4 mode, increasing power and but being more energy efficient at the same time.