How to Improve Your Pace on a Steep Hiking Path

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Running can give you that thrill of freedom, especially when you’re surrounded by nature’s beauty. Running on steep trails, however, provides a different kind of challenge. Even for the most experienced climber or runner, there’s bound to be some inclines that are just too difficult to overcome without changing up techniques even just a little. Trail running up slopes in particular requires practice, skills, and thoughts in order to make decisions that are both informed and practical.

If you’ve found yourself settling on a pace that’s too comfortable when going up a steep, hiking path, here are some ways for you to improve:

Learn to Distinguish Hill Types

Hills differ in form and composition. Some of them are great for trail running, while there are those that are simply too steep to overcome without slowing down and using some arm power.

For hills you can run on, maintain a steady pace as you use short and compact strides to go up. Don’t overexert your energy!

For hills with partially runnable terrain and angle of steepness, you’ll need to combine running with some hiking. A good way to keep your pace is to alternate between hiking and running every twenty steps.

Lastly, there are hills that you just cannot run on—they are just too steep. For this type, the best thing to do is just to hike up. While it may seem out of the norm to walk parts of a race, doing so when the uphill climb calls for it will get you to use other muscle groups, hence giving those important running muscles some much-needed rest and improves your endurance for the remainder of the run.

Correct Your Foot Position

A common mistake runners tackling a steep trail often make is to put their weight on their toes. Sure, it feels more powerful, but it’s going to put a lot of strain on the calves in the long run. To avoid burning them out, correct your foot position when going up steep trails. Instead of letting the heel firmly settle on the ground with each step, have them touch the ground just briefly with every stride you make. It takes some practice, but in the end, you won’t use up all the power in your calves, hence, making you last longer on the uphill trail.

Take Smaller Steps

When running uphill, taking smaller steps not only requires less effort, but it also decreases your risk of falling. If you’re just beginning to learn how to run uphill more efficiently, taking smaller and quicker steps may take some getting used to. It gets better the more uphill trails you run as you find your balance and increase your cadence at a comfortable pace.

Keep Your Eyes on the Trail

You can virtually run on a straight road with eyes closed and still be fine, but doing so on a trail is essentially allowing the ground to meet your face as you stumble. Trail running requires focus and attention, so keep your eyes on the trail for your own safety. Adjust your sunglasses, hats, or running beanies, and secure them before tackling a steep hiking path. Look ahead from time to time to see where you’re going and form a strategy early on.

Mind Your Center of Gravity

Often, when going uphill, we tend to lean forward in order to counter the slope. This position, however, slightly restricts breathing. To resolve this, avoid bending your chest forward, and try to keep your balance while standing up straight. Then move your center of gravity, the reason for your stability, to your forefeet and lift up your head so you can breathe better.

Utilize Your Entire Body

Walking or running up a hill at a fast pace allows you to save a ton of energy, especially if you use your entire body to climb up rather than just your legs. Swing your arms up as you power forward to pull your entire body upward. Also, try to use your arms to press on your legs as you power hike up the hills. This puts less tension on the legs as it gets distributed to the rest of your body.

There are so many gorgeous trails to conquer, both flat and steep. These tips should help you work on your pacing, develop a better technique, and build your stamina so that you’ll be able to run or hike up more beautiful mountain trails. Practice regularly, stay hydrated, and have fun out in nature!


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