Love 'em or hate 'em, hills are a part of any runner's life. For those of you who feel defeated during the climb, here's some great news! Yoga is a wonderful discipline for working with the mind and the body, and it will help get you up and over that hill like a pro.
Here are some meditation tips and yoga poses that will help you burn through hills!
Try practicing these meditation tips and yoga poses to make hills exciting instead of draining!
Watch your thoughts.
What you think about the hill determines how you run the hill, so watch the tone of your thoughts. Your body is smart like that. If you hate on the hill, or go into Debbie-downer mode, then the aggressive beast or mopey shuffle will follow. What to do? Be hyper-vigilant about watching your thoughts and staying with your breath during your run. Take that meditation practice (yes, that’s what we call those few quiet moments at the beginning of yoga class) off the mat and onto the hill.
Be all in.
You run hills because you choose to — remember that. Hill running makes you a stronger and more efficient runner, improves recovery time and builds endurance in the body and mind. The repetitive nature of hills is similar to that of a yoga practice. We get on the mat to do this same set of poses again and again. Be all in with your body, your mind and your soul. The energy you spend on the reluctance to do it will zap your physical strength and keep your training in a place of confusion.
Of course, we need to prepare our bodies to tackle the hill, too. These poses build endurance while working the key muscles you need to get up and down the hill.
1. Awkward Chair At The Wall
Awkward chair pose builds physical strength and mental focus as we work with staying in the pose without hitting the eject button when it starts to get hard.
Start by standing with your back at the wall and place your feet hip distance apart with your heels in line with your sitting bones. Walk your feet forward as you start to slide down the wall, until your thighs are as parallel to the floor as possible. Keep your arms straight out in front of you as you press your back into the wall. Hold for seven breaths, working up to 30 seconds, and then to a minute.
2. Opposite Arm/Leg Balance.
This one’s great for the core while building hamstring and lower back strength. It teaches the body to work against gravity and requires laser-like focus of the mind.
To get into the pose, come onto all fours, leg distance away from the wall. Extend the left leg behind you, aligning the left heel with the left sitting bone, and then press the bottom of your left foot into the wall. Instead of feeling like you’re launching forward, push the heels and hips back toward the wall, keeping the low abs engaged. Once you’ve found stability, extend the right arm forward along your cheekbone. Hold the pose for 5 breaths, and then switch and do the other side.
3. Mountain Pose
Mountain pose, or tadasana, is the blueprint of most physical yoga practices. It teaches us where the body is in space and strengthens the deep postural muscles that live along the spine. Some of us lean forward from the waist while running uphill, and mountain pose can help us fight that tendency. By practicing mountain pose regularly, we learn to work against gravity from the feet up through the crown of the head.
To get into the pose, place the bottoms of your bare feet on the floor, hip distance apart. Distribute the weight evenly between the mounds of your big toes, little toes, and either side of your heel. Then divide the weight evenly between the front of your feet and the back of your feet. Lift the inner ankles up, unlock the knees and firm the quadriceps muscles to the thighbones. Engage the outer buttocks to the sitting bones and tone the back of the navel towards the spine. Lift the back of the skull away from the upper shoulders as you roll the upper arms backwards in your space. Work up to holding for a minute — it’s not as easy as it sounds!
Try adding these yoga tips for the mind and body into your regular cross-training routine and see if you notice a difference the next time you face that once-massive hill!