If you're one of those runners who shies away from the incline button on the treadmill or picks an outdoor route that specifically avoids any type of hill, then you could be missing out. Taking on the challenge of running both uphill and downhill is a surefire way to make you a better runner, and here are eight reasons why.
Increased speed. Working against gravity taxes your muscles, making them work harder than you would on flat ground. With stronger quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves, you'll find that you'll be able to run faster.
Injury prevention. Runner's knee is a common ailment that can make you hang up your sneaks. Aside from doing not-too-exciting wall squats to strengthen the thighs, running up inclines will also do the trick (and burn way more calories at the same time).
Stronger upper body. Since your legs fatigue much easier on uphill climbs, you will naturally pump the arms more to take some of the workload off the lower body. This not only strengthens your upper body — making running a more total-body workout — but it also reminds you to utilize your arms and core when running on flat surfaces, which can prevent overuse injuries in your legs.
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Endurance. Since running up steep hills is naturally more challenging than running on flat surfaces, both building lower-body muscles and increasing your lung function will enable you to run longer with ease.
Increased speed. The pull of gravity makes your quads and hamstrings work much harder to slow down your pace to prevent your feet from pounding the ground with each step. And as mentioned above, having stronger thigh muscles is one way to build speed and power.
Injury prevention. Working with the pull of gravity also targets your shins, and strengthening the front of your lower legs can prevent shin splints.
Much-needed rest. The momentum of gravity makes running down hills feel easier, which can give your muscles a break during a run that not only allows you to conserve energy, but can also prevent injuries from pushing the same muscles too hard.
A stronger core. On the downhill, it's even more important to engage your core to brace knees against the added impact a downhill run can have on the body.
This article originally appeared on POPSUGAR.com