How to Run Hills and Not be Intimidated with Coach Dylan Belles

How to run hills

HILLS! For many of us this word terrifies us because they’re hard, they’re uncomfortable, and we may not even know how to run them correctly. Up hill, downhill, hills for interval training and speed work, trail running with hills, it’s all part of the running experience. Yet, how many of us know how to use hills effectively and to our optimal benefit to improve our running?

Today we have RunnersConnect coach and top competitor, Dylan Belles, to fill in the details and clarify some best hill techniques for runners of all abilities. If you can run hills well, you WILL BE a much better runner.

Efficiency and effective training makes a difference

In this episode Dylan discusses hills and why all of us can benefit from understanding how to run them better and how to utilize the power that comes from effective hill running – for racing and training. When we think of running hills, we often envision running up a road with a steep hill, running up a long but low grade, or the infamous “Heartbreak Hill” of Boston. But, as Isaac Newton essentially said: “What goes up, must come down.” and Dylan also shares with us how to effectively run down hills and how hills should be approached when trail running.

Practice makes perfect – uphill and down

Dylan Belles is a coach at Runners Connect and also a Brooks Professional Athlete living and training in Flagstaff, Arizona. He has most recently qualified for the Olympic Trials Marathon, running 2:18:11 at the 2018 California International Marathon, and now has set his sights to running this year’s Berlin Marathon with a goal time of 2:15.

Prior to his successes in the marathon, Dylan attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he studied Kinesiology and later served his Alma mater as a Volunteer Assistant Coach at the Collegiate Level. Since leaving North Carolina, Dylan has played roles in many running organizations focused on leading runners at the youth, community, and professional levels. Coach Dylan has received rave reviews from many of the RunnersConnect clients he has coached.

Questions Dylan is asked:

3:44 First Four:

  1. How old are you?
  2. Where were you born?
  3. Where do you live now?
  4. How do you stay fit?

5:11 How did you get to this point in your career a a runner and a coach?

7:21 Does Brooks have a team in Flagstaff, Arizona?

9:05 What are some high points and successes of your coaching career?

12:01 How does coaching make you feel?

13:22 Are you meeting any your athletes at the Berlin Marathon?

14:07 Why are hills such a challenge to runners?

16:41 How do you talk to novice runners about hills?

18:32 How would you coach a novice runner about hill technique?

20:52 Will hill work help improve form?

22:08 What stride adjustments need to be made on hills?

23:13 How can more advanced runners use hills for training?

27:24  What about running downhill?

30:23 How are you landing when you’re running down a hill?

32:56 How does your arm position change when running downhill?

34:41 How does your pace change running downhill?

35:33 How can we use downhills in the last 10k of a marathon to our advantage?

36:35 What about doing interval and speedwork on hills?

39:52 How many repeats would an average runner do and how much recovery between them?

42:28 How does the 3-minutes fit in with a novice runner vs. an advanced runner?

44:40 How do you you use hills in your own training?

46:55 Is Berlin your next goal-race?

48:10 What can you tell us about running hills when trail-running?

51:16 What about downhill on trails?

53:16 How does walking come into play with hills on trails?

54:14 Why does pace and time not really transfer between trails and trail races?

54:45 What are some key takeaways we should have from this conversation?

59:59 Final Kick Round:

  1. What is your favorite local training run or outing (location, starting point, parking, distance, terrain and safety issues)?
  2. Favorite book(s), video or resource?
  3. Who or what would you like to have featured on the Run To The Top podcast?


Quotes by Dylan:

“I don’t like to take a lot of credit myself as a coach because, sure I’m here and I’m helping people try to be their best, but when it comes down to it, it’s themselves who are out there doing the work.”

“Hills are pretty easily avoided. Some of us may live in hilly areas, but we can still get around those hills. So it’s much easier for us to take it easy on ourselves and avoid them and not include them in our runs.”

“I think hills are one of the first things in terms of workouts that we should add to a program. Hills themselves aren’t as demanding as we think. It’s actually strength training and can actually keep you healthier. It’s the most specific kind of work you can do as a runner in terms of strength training. It’s safer than running hard on a flat surface.”

“One of the easiest things we can do is just include hills in our daily runs. I think that this is universal from a beginner runner to an advanced runner.”

“What a lot of us don’t understand is that running downhill doesn’t always mean you’re going to be running faster, because running downhill is incredibly demanding. It can really tear you up.”


Take a Listen on Your Next Run


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Mentioned in this podcast:

Run To The Top Winners Circle Facebook Community

RunnersConnect Facebook page

Bear Mattress

Brooks Running Team Athletes

Lockett Meadow Inner Basin Loop

Jason Fitzgerald’s Strength Training Website

Runners Connect Homepage


Follow Dylan on:



Email Dylan


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