How can I conquer hill running?

Q I regularly run hill reps at 85 per cent of my maximum heart rate (MHR) but when I’m halfway through the session, I feel like giving up. What should I concentrate on to get me through the repetitions?

A Training in the 85 per cent MHR zone – threshold pace – is very demanding, and isn’t for beginners. Your body can’t work this close to its maximum every time you ask it to: there may be limiting factors such as dehydration, or not having recovered properly from your previous training sessions. Assuming these factors are not a problem, try these mental tricks to get you up the hill.

Before the session

Think about why you’re doing this session. What do you want to achieve from it? Why is it important to do the session? Identifying one or two key reasons should help to boost your motivation, persistence and effort.

Think about the session you are going to do: when, where, with whom, how many repetitions. Add to this what it will be like to experience the session – what will it really feel like, what will you see. “See” yourself running well, with good form, being heavily taxed, but being fine with it. This will help to prepare you for the session and give you the confidence to complete it.

During the session

Don’t concentrate on your watch as you run up the hill – perhaps look at it when you reach the top and later to determine your heart rate at the end of your recovery. Instead, ensure you maintain good form, such as high knees or driving off the balls of your feet, and not tension or forced movements that raise your heart rate, but actually reduce your efficiency and speed.

Give yourself encouragement during (and credit for completing) the session. High-heart-rate sessions are tough, don’t make them tougher by giving yourself a hard time for not hitting your maximum every time.

Victor Thompson, Sports Psychologist