Benefits of hill running – reasons to challenge yourself and aim high
Discover why running in the hills could be the best things you can do for your performance and health
Hill running might seem like a lot of hard work, especially if you compare it to running on flat tarmac, but there are many benefits of running up and down hills.
We asked several hill running fans to tell us why they enjoy their chosen sport.
Hill running fitness benefits
Ali Bailey is a marathon and ultra trail runner from Start Fitness and he believes there are increased fitness benefits from running in the hills.
He says: “From a fitness perspective, hill running provides all the cardiovascular benefits of running on the flat but with a helping hand of the gradients.
“Running uphill can help to stimulate medium and fast twitch muscle fibres in the glutes and legs, which in turn helps to build strength, power and stamina.
“So, this means the hills are a great workout tool to utilise if you are looking to gain fitness or go faster for longer.”
There are plenty of hill running tips you can learn, too.
Theo Larn-Jones, the founder of the Love Trails Festival, adds: “There is another way that hill running can improve running form and technique and that is to give runners a more efficient stride and greater engagement of the core muscles.”
Hill running is also beneficial for improving overall running technique. Ali explains: “Running hills encourages the body to engage the arms and requires you to raise your knees higher.”
Benefits of the trails
Ali believes the trails are kinder to the body, compared to running on tarmac. He says: “What’s more, many runners prefer to run hills on trails or grass as it is a lower impact surface than tarmac or a treadmill, which your joints will appreciate."
There are the downhills, too
And, of course, hill running is not only about the ups. Ali says: “People should remember that hill running includes the downhills, too.
"Running downhill stimulates different muscle groups in the legs to build a more rounded strength and stability across the muscles, tendons and ligaments.”
Running downhill is also a wonderful joy iof you can get into the right flow and let gravity do some of the hard work.
Fresh air and great views
Many hill runners enjoy the opportunity to explore new places and see new views. Ali says: “There’s a lot to enjoy when it comes to hill running. I enjoy the fresh air away from the roads, the changing scenery on the way up and the views from the top in good wether."
Theo adds: “Being able to take on the hills as a runner opens up a whole new landscape to explore. There's not much that can beat the beautiful and rewarding hills, mountains and moorland that the UK has to offer.”
Rory Cockshaw is a vegan ultra-runner, environmental activist and campaigner at the charity Viva! . He enjoys hill running as it gives him the opportunity to get away from a busy city life.
He says: “Spending time alone in beautiful places, such as my favourites, the Brecon Beacons in Wales or the Peak District in England, gives me time to unwind from city life and reflect on the world around me.
“Hill running makes me feel as though I’ve been transported a few millennia back in time, to back before humans messed everything up with fossil fuels and animal agriculture.”
Hill running is sociable
Whether you are heading out for a hull run with a friend or as part of a hill running club, you'll find it easier to chat and enjoy the company of your running pal when you are on the trails as compared to busy and noisy city streets.
The chances are you will slow to a walk to go uphill and stop for a breather, to take in the views or for a snack, so the pace will mean you have plenty of time to talk, too.
Hill running for adventures
Hill running offers the opportunity to discover new places and run in races that you might not have thought about going to.
Keen hill and mountain runner Natalie Taylor, who lives in Inverness, says: "Running on trails and in the hills and mountains has taken me to so many amazing places in the UK and worldwide.
“I like the pace that running brings and feeling immersed in the landscape and surrounded by nature.
“I have also competed in hill and mountain races all around the world and this has shown me amazing new places that I might never have thought to go to.”
This article is part of Advnture's Trail Running Week 2023 (running from Monday 27 March to Sunday 2 April), our in-depth look at how to train smarter, choose the right gear, and have fun when things get muddy.
All the latest inspiration, tips and guides to help you plan your next Advnture!
Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.