Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Post about running: how to tackle a hilly course?


Yesterday I did one of those things that I like the best about being here in Finland: I went for a run in the forest. The flat we’re living in over here is kind of great: 10 minutes from a big, beautiful lake, and 5 minutes to the forest (and 30 min on a bus to the city) For a nature bug like me it’s perfect. Running in the forest is just the best… I love every little bit about it: the nature, the soft ground (so good for your knees!), the air and the shadow. Perfect during warm, 30 degrees days like yesterday. However, this forest lap is kind of… tough. Forget about 11km/hours (with a 05-1,0 incline) on the treadmill… Even though I thought I was fit I realized after 20 minutes in the forest that I’m not… at all. The course is extremely hilly. When I say extremely I really mean it: up, down, up, down.. Constantly. There are maybe 3 small flat sections? Otherwise it’s mostly uphill…

One lap is something like 5-6 km. Peanuts! Yeah, or so I thought until I realized how those hills actually kill you! Fine for the first, 20 minutes… but the end section is just like one long hill… with little flat sections/downhill for recovery… oh man, I ALMOST gave up last night. But in the end I pushed myself and made it all the way back to the door. But I remember thinking when I was running: “uh… this is not really fun?! This is torture!” Although like always, afterwards it felt great.

However, I’d like to ask any fellow runner out there if you have any tips for how to tackle hills. The thing with me is, that I’m almost worse at running downhill than uphill. These hills are steep, and I’m scared of ‘letting go’ as I fear that the pressure on the knee (when you put your leg down in a steep downhill) is going to be too big. So I always hold back… meaning I don’t make the most of those downhills. Numerous friends that I’ve been running with have commented on it over the years, saying that I ‘lose’ a lot when I’m running downhill as I automatically slow down (meanwhile they are letting go and are flying forward). What’s the best way to do it? And, it is pathetic or pathetic to not be able to run a second, 5 km lap after that first one?! I have this long-term running goal for the summer: before I go back to China I’m going to do 3 laps in that forest. Although when I thought about that yesterday it sort of felt impossible. Anyways, any running tips are appreciated. Running in pancake-flat-Suzhou/Shanghai has spoilt me for the last 3 years… never thought hills could be such a challenge! Funny how easy you forget?!

Walking and running in the forests are two completely different things...

10 comments:

Brad F. said...

I don't have any tips for tackling big hills, because I try to avoid them, but I did want to say that I love running through the forest. The reason is that it adds variety. You become more engaged with your running than you do if you're plodding along on a straight course or on flat ground. Plus the scenery is just nicer.

kadyhexum said...

Try tucking your chin to your chest on the downhill. This helps you lean into the downhill. If you can get over the urge to 'hold back' you can get easy, free speed. Just watch the terrain so you dont roll your ankle!

flyingfish said...

I've never been a runner but I used to have the same problem with downhills when I was a cyclist. I didn't weigh enough (fancy having that problem, seems impossible now) to really get up enough speed going downhill, and I was also too cautious and held back too much.

I never found a solution, but I think kadyhexum's tip sounds like a good plan, just based on my memory of how it feels to tackle hills. After all, you really do want to hit your "stride," whether running or cycling, and you can't do that if you are holding back.

Good luck!

mochi said...

Heels down first and hip thrust out forward when running downhill. I also have a knee strap over the patellar to take the pressure off the knee. I am training for the hills of San Francisco and I totally agree that uphill is so much easier than downhill, on your joints anyways.
Good luck with your runs! Forest sounds like a great place to train.

Phoenixkidd said...

Jonna, I run down Camelback Mountain in Phoenix a very treacherous way down. The trick is to slow yourself down by jumping, I basically just jump all the way down like a gazelle, the foot lands mainly just on tippy toes, it slows you down and is so exhilarating to run down hill.

Jonna Wibelius said...

hey everyone thanks a lot for your advices!!! I'm doing a new lap tomorrow and I'm going to try the whole 'chin in, hip out' style when tackling the downhills. Let's hope I survive the uphills too. Damn! I. Wanna. Be. Fit. Now!!!

Colleen said...

That sounds like so much fun! I just went trail-running the other day. It wasn't in a forest because I'm in kind of a desert here, but it was still much more fun and nicer than running on the street.

I love running downhill, but it used to scare me too. I just try to lean forward, let go and enjoy it, but I watch my feet really carefully, making sure they hit straight on and that I don't step anywhere funny. It's a great way to go fast and recover at the same time.

danatdc said...

Jonna,

The best way I found to run down hill is to trot like a horse, jumping and having your feet land on the ground one after the other similar to PhoenixKid's method. Only difference is that I land on the ground more squarely than him/her.

Anna Davidson said...

Hey Jonna, the forest sounds amazing. I'm heading back to Australia this weekend and can't wait for 6 weeks of running around the river, on the beach etc.!! Stair training helps with the hilly runs - particularly training your eyes/mind to concentrate on foot placement on the way down. You gotta do the Great Wall marathon next year, you'd love it! A great run! Enjoy Finland.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Anna -u r going to Australia?!?! Man, I envy U! I just love that place, it's my fave country in the world..U r so lucky to be an aussie, aussies are just the nicest ppl! :)

GW marathon.. uhh... makes me scared just thinking about it. Although I bet it would be a fantastic experience! Who knows, maybe one day!