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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hill Running Tips

San Francisco: A Runner’s Paradise (with a hilly twist)

Those of you who live in the San Francisco Bay Area know the true beauty and allure of San Francisco. Once you move here, why would you ever leave willingly? I work in the only downtown hospital in San Francisco, Saint Francis Memorial Hospital. Millions of people work in the downtown daily. People from all over the world travel to this area on vacation and business trips. It is truly an exciting place to live, or even experience briefly. Runners can train year round so they love the great climate.

When runners move to San Francisco, they are immediately faced with potential danger---the San Francisco Hills. There are 7 of them. Finding a flat running routine can be challenging. The 7 miles 5 days a week they were running in flat Dallas can not be transferred into hilly runs in San Francisco without danger lurking. Hill runs can be great in moderation, but must be gradually incorporated in your running program.

     This photo does not do justice to one of the steepest hills in San Francisco called Lansdale Avenue. The hiking area to the left is Mount Davidson Park and the incline is intense. As a high school runner at Archbishop Riordan High School here in San Francisco we would do twice weekly interval training up this hill to the base of the huge Cross at the top of the hill. Probably why we won the league championship on a yearly basis.

     When you are training for some event and increasing the intensity of your workouts, think about these key points. Never increase the 3 main variables at the same time---distance, speed, and hills. First, build up your distance to where you would like/want it. Then stabilize the distance at that same amount, and add two speed workouts or two hill workouts per week, not both. These two workouts per week are normally in the middle of the week, like Tues/Thurs, with an easy run on Wednesday. Speed and Hill Workouts provide different stresses to the body and will make you faster and stronger. Just do not increase both at the same time. Give yourself 3 weeks at hills or speed, level off that variable, then add the 3rd variable. Try 3 weeks with one speed and one hill workout per week, then try 3 weeks just adding the 3rd variable. Do you see how safe, albeit slow, this procedure is? Since this is a medical blog, I am going to emphasize safety.

     One way to safely add hills is in the middle 1/2 of a run. So, during a 6 miler, run 1 and 1/2 miles flat, 3 miles in a hilly area, and the last 1 and 1/2 miles flat. Do the math! Charge up as many hills as you feel up to, pumping extra hard with your arms to help pull you up, but go easy down hills. Down Hill Running is one of the biggest dangers for injuries, especially during the last 1/4 of the workout when the muscles are fatigued. There is only damage to your joints as a benefit of down hill running, other than mortgage payments for orthopedists. But if you run up, you must run down, so go easy. The stresses to your body running down hill can be up to 10 times body weight as you land on each foot. Go easy with down hill running and last much longer as a runner. The occasional race where you need to fly down a hill to win a prize or something is just fine, but avoid the pounding of down hill running during your normal training runs.


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Thank you very much for leaving a comment. Due to my time restraints, some comments may not be answered.I will answer questions that I feel will help the community as a whole.. I can only answer medical questions in a general form. No specific answers can be given. Please consult a podiatrist, therapist, orthopedist, or sports medicine physician in your area for specific questions.