Flat running vs. hill running is the theme of the week, and let me tell you, there are some serious differences.
I live and run in Florida, the Sunshine State, which is also known as the “Flat State.” In order to get any kind of hill training, I have to drive to a bridge or a parking garage. Additionally, our city is less than 10 feet above sea level, so altitude is a complete non-issue for me.
I just spent the last five days in a cabin on the side of a mountain. In my (inexperienced) head, I figured running would be harder, but I had no idea how much of a challenge waited for me. The truth is, I managed very little actual running, due to the incline of the hills. I just wasn’t prepared.
You Use Entirely Different Muscles On Hills
I hear so many runners talking about how running on flat roads is difficult because you always engage the same muscles with no variation. Well, I’m here to say that when you are running up and down hills, you work muscles you didn’t know existed. I struggled heading up, and cramped in my left (read: uninjured) leg coming back down. To be honest, I would think running flat would be a welcome relief to everyone, but clearly, it’s the preference to which I’m accustomed.
The Air Is Different Up There
The first major difference in the flat running vs hill running challenge is air. Hillier automatically means higher, and higher means thinner air. In Florida, we deal with humidity, which definitely makes it hard to breathe. I was amazed at how much I exerted myself doing less when at a higher elevation. There was more walking than running, and it was shocking how much hungrier and tired I was than when I do harder and more intense activity at home.
Safety Precautions Are Different
On a flat road, visibility is a bit less of an issue than on a hilly one. Everything is wide open and exposed, so it’s easier to be spotted by drivers and also to have your movements a bit more exposed.
Hills can lead to low visibility with their peaks and valleys and twists and turns. Even a driver paying super close attention might miss someone on the side of the road, which could lead to serious tragedy. This isn’t something I really had to think about before, and I was glad that I don’t run with music very much anymore. No distractions helped me stay more cognizant of approaching vehicles and sprinting deer.
(Please note, safety is super important no matter where you are engaging in activity. All runners, walkers, and cyclists should be on high alert).
Strength Training Might Be Even More Necessary For Hills
I runfessed that since I picked up Couch To 5K again, I’ve been a bit negligent in my strength training. What I learned in my flat running vs hill running lesson is that better core and upper body strength would have been hugely helpful. Is is FAR easier to maintain good posture and form when you’re not leaning into or back from a steep hill. The grades meant I used muscles I never knew existed in order to keep moving. Truth be told, even walking a mile up and a mile back down a road with a 500 foot elevation gain led to DOMS I haven’t experienced since my marathon in 2013. Days later, I was still a little sore! (Thank goodness for my roller!)
Do you train in a flatter or hillier area?
What are your thoughts on flat running vs hill running?
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