3 Ways to Train for Hills When You’re Surrounded by Flatlands

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Living in a flat area might seem like a major obstacle for those who dream of conquering steep inclines. However, with a little creativity and determination, it’s entirely possible to effectively prepare for elevation gains, even when your training ground is as flat as a pancake.

Adapting your workout to mimic the resistance and physical demands of hills is key. By utilizing specific techniques that can be performed in a flat area, you can build the strength and endurance necessary for hilly challenges.

These methods range from using simple inclines you might find in your neighborhood like bridges and stairs at stadiums, to specialized workouts like the 12-3-30 workout that don’t require any hill at all.

The goal is to simulate the conditions of hill running as closely as possible, enabling your body to adapt to the forthcoming exertion and technique required by undulating courses.

Key Takeaways

  • You can effectively train for hills, even in flat areas, by replicating elevation challenges.
  • Optimizing available inclines and using targeted workouts enhances hill-running preparedness.
  • Strategic training compensates for the lack of natural hills in your environment.

Fundamental Training Techniques

A cyclist on a flat road, visualizing hills ahead. They adjust resistance on a stationary bike or increase incline on a treadmill. They also incorporate interval training and use resistance bands for strength exercises

To conquer hills, even in the flattest regions, you have key tactics at your disposal. By adapting your indoor workouts and incorporating specific strength exercises, you’ll build the muscle power and endurance needed for those inclines.

1. Utilizing Treadmills

Your trusty treadmill can be a hill runner’s best ally when actual hills are nowhere in sight. Crank up that incline and simulate hill conditions by adding hill intervals to your routine.

Here’s a structured way to do it:

  1. Warm-up with 10 minutes of easy walking.
  2. Set the treadmill to a challenging incline (start with 4-6%).
  3. HIKE at a consistent effort for 2 minutes.
  4. Recover with 2 minutes of flat walking.
  5. Repeat 5-10 times depending on your fitness level.
  6. Cool down with 5-10 minutes of easy walking.

Remember, it’s all about maintaining a steady effort – the speed might decrease, but the goal is to keep the intensity consistent.

2. Strength Training Exercises

Now, let’s talk about strengthening your muscles. Specific exercises will bolster your leg strength, crucial for uphill strides. Here are a few essential moves to include in your routine:

  • Squats: These target your quads and glutes which are vital for uphill running.
  • Lunges: They mimic the action of climbing, engaging your hamstrings, quads, and calves.
  • Plyometric exercises: Moves like box jumps and step-ups increase power in your legs.
  • Calf raises: Strengthen those calves to give you extra push in every step uphill.

Perform these exercises in sets, ensuring you also focus on maintaining an aerobic base with regular running. Combining these with your treadmill workouts will give you a well-rounded approach to hill training.

Techniques to Mimic Elevation Gain

A cyclist tackles a steep incline, using a resistance trainer to simulate elevation gain. Nearby, a runner sprints up a set of stairs, while a hiker lunges uphill with a weighted backpack

When you’re aiming to boost your hill-climbing prowess but don’t have any actual slopes nearby, fear not! You can still effectively improve your climbing strength, running economy, and aerobic fitness using the terrain at your disposal.

3. Stairs and Stadium Workouts

Stairs are your go-to substitute for mountains. Regularly incorporating stair workouts into your training can significantly enhance your muscular endurance and aerobic capacity.

Think of stairs as a condensed hill where each step up recruits the muscles in your legs to combat gravity, mimicking the effort of uphill hiking or running.

Stadium Workouts:

  • Find a local stadium with bleachers or long flights of stairs.
  • Walk up as fast as you can while maintaining a steady cadence.
  • Walk down carefully—this will help with downhill hiking technique.

Bonus: Bridge Repeats and Overpasses

While bridges may not be mountains, their inclines are perfect for hill strides. They can simulate elevation gain. Overpass embankments also provide a gradient challenging enough for a good workout.

Even if the elevation seems modest, it’s enough to make a difference. These structures can help improve your uphill and downhill skills along with overall hiking economy.

Bridge Repeat Workouts:

  • Warm-up with a light walk on flat ground.
  • Hike up the bridge at a challenging but sustainable effort.
  • Focus on pushing off the ground with power and maintaining a strong aerobic effort.
  • Go down with a quick, light cadence to improve your downhill hiking efficiency.

Consistently incorporate these exercises, and even without hills, your legs and lungs will be well-prepared for when you finally face that summit.

Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and passionate hiker who believes in exploring the world on foot with good food. Follow her journey as she shares science-based hiking tips and advocates for sustainable tourism.