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Hill Running with Asthma

by Leona B
(Cleethorpes, UK)

I started running this year 30th May. I had never run at all before and having asthma I thought it would be a problem. To my surprise I have quickly built up and now run 3 times a week distances between 3-7 miles.

I did a trial half marathon in 2hr 19 min and have completed a couple of races and although I'm not last my times need improving on.

However my recent race was a hilly course and I just could not breathe, as soon as I start to run uphill I struggle to get enough air into my lungs.

I did finish the race without having to stop but this did hold me back. I have done some hill training but I do find it very difficult.

I am in a running group and do have support in training etc.

My question is how do I help my breathing during hill runs, I don't need inhalers and rarely get out of breathe on flat runs.

Any techniques I could try or advice would be great.

Thanks, Leona.

hill running with asthma
Answer by Dominique:

Hi Leona,
Thanks for your question about hill running with asthma.

This is a tough one. The problem with hill running is that it quickly pushes up your heart rate and breathing. When you have asthma this then becomes an issue of course.

You can work on making hills easier for you, but I am not sure the problem will go away completely. I mean everyone, with or without asthma, usually has trouble with hills.

The best way to make hill running easier is to do hills often. Make them a regular part of your runs. It will help condition your legs and over time they do become easier to handle.

Another way to make hill running easier is to work on your technique. As soon as you start climbing hills make sure you take smaller, but quicker, steps.

When you go up the stairs two steps at a time it is a lot harder than one step at a time, it makes your legs work harder. So the same with hills, reduce your stride length, focus on short, quick steps and it will be easier.

Another thing to focus on is your upper body. You want to keep it straight and keep your head up right.

Many people start slumping and looking at the ground when they are battling hills.

Keep your head upright and your back straight and you'll be able to draw in a lot more air.

One way to do it is to focus on a point in the hill ahead of you and look at that. Don't look at your shoes but look at the point in the hill.

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Another "trick" is to imagine there is a rope around your middle which is pulling you up to the top of the hill. This will make you keep your back straight.

These are some basic tips for hill running. There are a few more on this page:

Hill Running

Hope this helps a little.
Best of luck.
Kind regards,

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