It’s that time of the year when the hills are verdant and inviting, and while a trek might be tempting, it’s not always possible, especially when there’s no company. If you do venture into hilly territory by yourself, though, try a spell of hill running, instead of the usual trek.

Hill running, as the name suggests, involves a lot of climbing up and descending. That means it’s a holistic workout for your legs and feet, but as with any form of exercise, some care must be taken to ensure an injury-free run. Here’s what you should look out for when going hill running this monsoon.

The Climb
A major part of hill running is climbing. Start off slowly and steer clear of tracks that are too steep. If you don’t find a suitable spot at first, walk up and try to get to an easier part. Wrecking your legs is not the objective, so don’t run up regardless of how the terrain looks.

One of the most important aspects of hill running is conserving energy and knowing when to press on, and when to slow down. Usually, the track will determine this for you, but if it’s not clear then it’s better to stay safe by combining spells of walking with your run. Walking is an excellent way of strengthening your thigh muscles and quadriceps, which play a crucial part during the climb up.

The Descent
No we aren’t talking about the cult horror movie. Running downhill fast is a great temptation, and unfortunately, one that leaves too many novice runners skidding on their rear-ends, rather than skillfully running down a hill, like they imagined. Go slow; hill running takes a lot of practice, a lot more than other surfaces. Even if you aren’t running downhill, the act of carefully balancing yourself on possibly slippery slopes is a great workout for those quads, glutes and your hamstring. Prepare for the descent by running down a slope during your regular running days.

The Terrain
Because hill running inherently involves undulating surfaces and ups-and-downs, the terrain plays a major role in your run. It will determine the route you take, the speed you run at, and also the cadence and your strike and lift-off positions. Be extremely wary of lose rocks and mud as these are the major cause of falls and slips in the hills. And there are the brooks and streams that may require you to stride longer and even leap over them. Wear the appropriate shoes and you should be able to tackle these jumps with greater alacrity.

For beginners, we always advise waiting for a running mate before going hill running, but if that’s not the case, don’t underestimate your terrain. It will be beautiful, but it’s not without its perils.

Main image: akunamatata

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