Kilian’s Thoughts on Running Versus Hiking

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When is hiking faster than running? Running is faster, obviously. In fact, many runners will gauge how well they felt in a race by how little they hiked or if they didn’t have to hike at all.

But in some cases, hiking is more efficient than running especially when there are steep grades in a race. A few days ago, mountain-endurance athlete and speed-record holder Kilian Jornet shared a video on his twitter that demonstrates the energy-saving benefits of hiking.

RELATED: When (and How) to Power Hike

The form is more like power hiking, but still the runner at the front of the pack is making significant gains on the steep uphill.

The power-hiking racer in the video is Nadir Maguet, 26, from Italy, who is a world-class athlete in ski mountaineering (skimo) and mountain running. The clip is from Salomon’s live coverage of the DoloMyths Run held this past weekend on the July 21. The 22K race incorporates many challenging vertical sections in the Dolomites in Northeastern Italy.

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The Technique

In the post’s thread, Kilian elaborates on the technique. He points out that it’s not just Maguet’s uphill speed alone helping him.

Maguet’s skimo background is prevalent in the video, as it literally looks like he is propelling himself up the hill. He’s taking some of the stress off his legs by using his arms and poles.

Jornet points out how Maguet’s muscle adaptations from skimo are helping him to maintain speed. Skimo is a total-body workout, as it utilizes muscles in the upper body, like the shoulders, triceps and biceps, and lower body muscles, like the glutes and hip flexors.

Maguet’s power hiking proves to be beneficial as he finished in a tie for second in a time of 2:02:54. He finished two minutes off of the course record set by Jornet in 2013.

Try It Yourself

A few takeaways from Kilian’s tweet is first the importance of poling and second the importance of cross training.

Poling when done correctly can be an energy-efficient way of scaling steep slopes. If you are interested in trying it out, check out this article that explains how to run and power hike with poles and also provides reviews for three great collapsible poles.

Of course, you don’t necessarily need poles. For power hiking sans poles its best to place your hands on your thighs and push with each stride. Lean forward and keep your back parallel to the incline of the slope. However, make sure your not hunching over like a certain bell-keeper in Notre Dame. Engage your core to keep your back straight and parallel.

Cross training is an excellent way to maintain aerobic fitness while exercising muscle groups that aren’t normally used in running. Nordic skiing and backcountry skiing are great ways to cross train in the winter.

But if you’re looking to reap the benefits of skimo now,  you can incorporate some exercises meant to improve skimo technique with your normal gym routine. Here’s a good article that details some exercise.

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