Updated: Jan 2, 2020
Do you hate running hills? Find them to be excruciating and just overall difficult? Even though you run up and down and up and down you don’t seem to find yourself improving? Well, your solution may be to hit the swimming pool.
A few years ago I was noticing the same thing. No matter how much I trained on hills, I couldn’t seem to really improve. Meanwhile, I was training for a triathlon and my coach had me using the kickboard and kicking up and down the swimming lane for yards at a time. Over time, I noticed that not only was I gaining speed in the pool, but I began to gain speed and endurance on those hills. That is because you are working the glutes and the hamstrings, the most critical part of the legs for running let alone climbing hills. If you can gain strength in your hamstrings and glutes, you ultimately can become a stronger runner. That and it will also make running up hills easier. Why? Because glute strength provides stability and controls the entire lower leg. If you have no stability, your legs can’t generate power. The glutes and hamstrings help with hip extension and shock absorption with each landing of the foot. If we aren’t strong in those areas, other parts of our body will compensate to try and provide stability, ultimately resulting in poor mechanics, runners knee or IT band syndrome.
But I walk and lift weights! Shouldn’t that be enough? Sadly no because that is not putting enough focus on them. The glutes get so much attention while running because of the force it generates during push off and landing but because they don’t get enough attention prior to running, it can literally hurt you in the end.
So why swimming? Through swimming, you are constantly kicking which works the glutes and hamstrings into becoming stronger muscles. Swimming is also a great exercise for runners because it helps develop better aerobic capacity as well as endurance. But it’s helping your butt more than you know and many coaches will say to be a stronger and better runner, you need a strong butt. You can, of course, do lunges, squats, and other strength workouts for the buttox involving weights, but if you already have lingering pain, try hitting the pool for some swim sessions. Over the next few weeks, you may start to notice more strength in your butt and domination on those hills.