Uphill Parts

May 6, 2011

Have you ever hiked or run uphill?  Do you like it?  What did you do mentally and physically to overcome the impediments to your momentum?  Do areas of your life or work feel really steep and taxing at times?

The green line is the elevation data from a  North Face 50K I ran in December 2009.  This 6+ hours of  running steep Marin County trails (perfect living) offered me 5 significant uphill climbs.  We also encountered Marin’s strong headwinds in the exposed coastal sections.

In this short post I’ll offer the mental and physical methods I use to maintain momentum uphill no matter how steep or long the hill.  This is an important metaphor for overcoming the “walls” or steep obstacles life presents all of us.  My hope is that everyone will get something from this, not just runners/hikers/or bikers.

Uphill (Mental)

  • Three words…Man of Action. I repeat this mantra silently or aloud when my heart-rate is creeping up to dangerous levels and my muscles are nearing the red-line.
  • I split my mental focus between the amazing summit that I’ll reach above (Goal) and the boost I’m feeling from what I’ve accomplished on the trail behind me.  It never hurts that the view just gets better as you ascend.  I always know that the uphill sections will be followed by a gorgeous view and a fast bouncy downhill glide.
  • I also bring my mind to my Tribe and the Support they offer me.  I’ve even written family member’s names and phrases on my forearm before a big fun run.
  • I take the most grueling climbs one small section at a time.  A series of smaller Goals versus allowing the daunting nature of the entire Mission put me in a place of fear.
  • I mentally say “YES!” every single time my mind presents a “Yes or No?” question.  Even when things hurt, I say YES!
  • I work hard, like in meditation, to allow taxing or stressful thoughts to enter my mind but not take root and rule the show.  Fear or stress thoughts will shut anyone down if not addressed.  When the arise during a taxing hilly run, I quickly draw from their energy vs. allow their energy to stop me.  I expand vs. contract.  I respond to my negative thoughts with a deep breath, a smile and utterance of “Man of Action” or “Yes!” or say my daughter’s name a few times.  Fear is real, but it is fuel not the boss.
  • I focus on all muscle groups in my legs and ass.  I don’t let my calves and quads do all the work.  So many people only run with 50% of their legs.  That doesn’t scale…especially in 3-13 hours hilly running events. :)
  • I think about the fact that our bodies were designed to run long distances.  Afterall, we needed the ability to hike or run very early on to chase down food.  The book “Born To Run touches on endurance hunting.”http://www.amazon.com/Born-Run-Hidden-Superathletes-Greatest/dp/0307266303 What a great read.






Uphill (Physical)-

  • I shift my glance back and fourth from my goal and the trail section at my feet (the soulful future state and the present).
  • I take smaller steps, but take them quicker.  I’m never too proud to honor my body by power hiking or walking a section.
  • I utilize my entire legs (with mental focus) and with a subtle shift from side to side.  Employ a subtle version of the hippy dance a hula doll does in the back of a New York City taxi cab.  This brings your hamstrings and ass into the mix which takes the heat off the beach muscle groups.
  • I’ll switch up my running style from time to time.  I’ll turn my hips to 20-40 degrees to one side and then the other, for example. If I’m really cramping I might even walk/run backwards up the hill.  This helps spread the work around to all muscle groups.  It’s good to practice this walking or running on steps (more predictable foot falls).
  • I work hard to control my breath into 2-in / 2-out or 3-in / 3-out patterns…especially as my heart-rate is close to maxing.
  • I never lift my back foot up off the hill.  I keep it low and pull it up parallel to the grade.  This reserves energy greatly.
  • I alway keep my arms in motion up the hill in front of my body.
  • I keep my hands relaxed (like I’m holding potato chips between my thumb and middle finger).
  • I never run right past a summit without pausing for the amazing views they present.
  • Have plenty of food and hydration to keep yourself fueled.


In conclusion, no metaphorical or literal hill or mountain is too tall.  You have the mental and physical tools to accomplish anything in the world.  Just get mindful, apply yourself, and have fun getting to the summit on a moment to moment basis in everything you do.

Assignment: Write down how you approach uphill hiking/running/biking/etc.  Contemplate the mental and physical methods you employ to reach summits.  Then write down the parts of your life or job that resemble an uphill climb.  What are the metaphorical “summits” you’re working toward?  Write about how the two relate.  You might just realize that the two things are more closely related then you thought.






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2 Responses to Uphill Parts

  1. Chris Mitchell on May 7, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    I find it interesting that you start with the mental aspect of the climb. I have been reflecting for some time now and am convinced that the “mental component” or simply confidence in all things is the true driver. The attitude is what creates the behavior. the positive “YES” in the face of doubt that pushes the body at play or in thought. We all face many hills in our Journey, finding the confidence in ourselves in the adversity is what makes difference.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • bryangbreckenridge on May 7, 2011 at 5:54 PM

      Incredible comment, Chris. You’re making my aspirations come true for Belief Energy. It’s meant to be a lively conversation versus a one way transmission of ideas. I like the words attitude, behavior, positive and Journey in your comment. Please remain such a great leader in this conversation.

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