Ugh hills! Am I right?! There is no avoiding running hills where I live. Whenever I approach a downhill, I begrudgingly think I am definitely going to have run back up this damn thing! My house sits on a hill, so when I head out my front door to go for a run, there is no avoiding the 500-foot decline at the beginning of my run and the 500-foot incline at the end. On top of that, my town is hilly; there isn’t a trail that I take that doesn’t have a few inclines on the path. Needless to say, I get slightly weary when I see a hill on my path and sometimes I just wish for a reprieve.
Growing to Appreciate Hills
Over time, I’ve learned to appreciate the hill and it’s inevitable presence in my running. For one, my legs are more toned and sculpted than they ever were when I lived and ran in the flat desert, i.e. Arizona. All thanks to the hilly state of Washington where I now live, I feel like I can conquer any incline (most days). Three of the races I’ve run since moving here have finished with an uphill battle, and although they were hard, I felt prepared and strong climbing each one.
5 Mind Tricks to Get Up the Hill
That’s not to say that hills have become a simple task. There is often a lot of cussing and heavy breathing that goes into climbing a hill. However, I have learned a few mental games to drown out the negativity and run my way to the top of the hill.
1. Wonder Woman’s Lasso
I say Wonder Woman because she’s obviously a buff, badass chica and honing her strength during an uphill battle works for me. But if a you’d rather visualize yourself as a cowboy slinging a lasso, do that. Now use your active runner’s imagination and sling a lasso up the hill and wrap it around something stationary, lock your eyes on that object, and pull yourself up the hill.
2. Swimmer Hands
I grew up swimming, not running, so it helps me to visualize cupping my hands and grabbing a fistful of water to propel myself forward and up the hill. This also helps me relax my hands and gives them something else to do besides turning into tightly balled fists gripping onto all my tension.
Like the Little Engine that Could, an I think I can mentality can get you through a lot of tough running situations, including hills. A few of my go-to mantras are strong legs, I am capable, and I am strong. No matter what I choose to say to myself, turning my focus to a positive affirmation takes my mind off the pain and puts my focus on what my body is capable of doing.
4. Number Chant
In a completely different way, this exercise lets my brain check out of the pain. Similarly to Wonder Woman’s lasso, I turn my focus to an next object up ahead, which is often a mailbox. I will chant the mailbox number until I reach the mailbox, and then begin the next number: 904, 904, 904, 904, 904, 904, 906, 906, 906… This is ideal for objects closer together.
Side Note: I’ve done this during a rough patch of a race too. Use a phrase on a poster that you see up ahead. Focus on that phrase and repeat it until you reach the cheering person. And then pick a new poster’s phrase to repeat.
No matter which mind trick I’m using, I make sure to mentally (sometimes physically) give that inanimate object a high five. Like a little celebration at each mini milestone as I make my way up the hill.
Final Thoughts on Running Hills
My last bit of advice is to make sure to that you are looking up and ahead, not down at your feet. Pick objects to focus on that are close. In other words, don’t try to eat (er climb) the entire hill at once, take it one bite (er step) at a time.
Share your #runnervibes below: What mind tricks help you run hills?