Hills Only Suck If You Think They Do

Photo by jessebezz

Do you hate hills? Do you analyze course elevation charts and freak out at the site of them? Do you dread the big ones miles before they arrive? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. Hills are hard. They raise our heart rate. They slow us down and psych us out. But they don’t have to. There really is an easy solution to your hill anxiety.

Love them.

What? Love the hills that are the beasts that burn my quads, that make me gasp and ruin all hope I have at a PR?

Yes. Love those hills. It’s as simple as that. Well, it’s a little more complicated. There is a bit of a process to it, but it really isn’t difficult or time consuming and will reap great rewards in your training and racing.

English: Heartbreak Hill I suspect there is a ...
Hills need not break your heart. Image via Wikipedia

To learn to love hills, the first thing you need to do is to accept them. If you have a race or a workout on a course with hills accept that the miles with those hills will be slower than the ones that are flat or contain downhills. Also accept the fact that you cannot make up all the time lost on the uphills on downhills. Hills will slow you down at least a little bit. Accept it.

After you learn to accept hills, then you can learn to like them. Remember I told you about affirmations? If you want to stop dreading hills, make “I LOVE HILLS!” your affirmation. You can write down “I love hills” on a post-it note and stick it somewhere you will look periodically throughout the day and say it out loud each time you see it. I once ran a course that I was going to race later in the week that finished up a hill. As I ran the course I kept saying to myself, “I cannot wait for the hill. I LOVE THAT HILL!” Sure enough, I surged up the hill and felt strong. When it came time to race I couldn’t wait to get to that last 200 meters. No dread! It was great.

Finally, visualize yourself loving the hills. In a relaxed state, picture yourself in that hilly race or on that rolling tempo course gliding effortlessly over the hills. Picture yourself strong and nimble and smiling as you crest the top. Picture yourself seeing your splits and surprised at how little that hill affected that last mile. Picture finishing the race or workout at goal pace and feeling great!

If you accept hills, affirm your love for hills and visualize yourself loving hills you will love hills!

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. I read a great tip recently. When you’re running towards a hill break it up into three pieces, don’t see it as a whole. Getting through each third is much easier than getting through a whole hill.

    1. @Ashley, that’s a great tip! I do that for a lot of my runs: break it up into chunks and take it one chunk at a time. Much more palatable!!!

  2. With the Akron Marathon being my hometown race, there’s no getting around loving hills. I visualize myself as billy goat, gliding up those inclines. Running more trails has helped stoke the love. Cheers!

  3. Or, to quote Shorter, speed work in disguise. I used to replace long runs with 8 x 90 secs of (very steep) hills about 2-3 months before track season with some success. I’ve also walked up some very steep South American hills with Ginger with a J…

    1. Good point! A reason to love them besides reducing anxiety: we should love them because they make us stronger and more fit. Thanks, Gareth!

  4. What motivates me to keep hills part of my mix (which will be tough while recovering from AT issues) is the thought that I’m actually a pretty solid hill racer. Whether true or not, being able to visualize myself passing other runners near the top of the hill, as I have done many times in races, gets me through the toughest ones in my training.