Hill Score is a new feature offered on select Garmin devices that is designed to improve your awareness of uphill running abilities. It gives you a unique perspective on how hill training affects your overall performance and allows you to track your development over time.
The Hill Score metric originally debuted on the Garmin Fenix 7 Pro and Epix 2 Pro. But it is now starting to roll out to other watches as part of the Q3 Beta.
The importance of your Hill Score
Running uphill requires a different skill set than doing the same on level ground. Depending on your training and ability, it might be a strength or a weakness of yours. The effort and time you put into developing your uphill running can turn difficult ascents into personal strengths, improving your overall running ability.
You probably know that running uphill is different from flat-surface running. It demands more force and energy because you’re pushing your body weight forward and upward while working against gravity. The added resistance leads to larger power outputs than when running on flat terrain. Your body also recruits a higher percentage of thigh and calf muscle mass when running uphill, indicating the unique demands of this activity.
But there’s more. Uphill running entails significant biomechanical variations from flat surface running, including higher step rates, shorter swing phase durations, and increased internal mechanical work and power output in all joints. These variables highlight the importance of paying extra attention to uphill running for success, making hill-specific training an important aspect of your regimen.
How Is your Hill Score calculated?
Garmin uses a combination of fitness and performance data to compute your Hill Score. The metric ranges from 0 to 100. A higher score indicates that you are more adept at uphill running.
When you record a running, walking, or hiking activity with your compatible Garmin device, uphill segments with a grade of more than 2% are automatically detected and factored in the calculation. Your most recent activities have the greatest influence on your current Hill Score, but several months of data are considered in the analysis.
Furthermore, the score is graded from recreational to elite in comparison to others your age and gender, ensuring that the improvement you see is individually meaningful.
The crucial elements of tour Hill Score
There are several critical elements that form your Hill Score. These consist of Hill Endurance, Hill Strength and VO2Max.
Hill endurance quantifies your muscles’ ability to endure repetitive climbing effort over extended periods of time. It is about increasing fatigue resistance and ability for long-term performance. Low-intensity activities provide a tactical advantage for increasing endurance. Building hill endurance requires gradually increasing the amount of uphill work while avoiding the increased recovery demands associated with higher intensity workouts.
Hill strength is the ability to run uphill with force. It all comes down to your ability to attack uphill stretches with a combination of high-intensity aerobic and anaerobic efforts. Maintaining a slower pace on a steeper hill may necessitate the same amount of effort as maintaining a faster pace on a more moderate incline. Hard uphill running can be quite taxing on your body, so allow plenty of time for recovery between efforts.
Of course, VO2 max is also important for uphill running. Even more so than for flat-surface running.
VO2 max displayed on your Garmin device describes the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize during intense physical activity per kilogram of body weight in a single minute (mL/kg/min). Because uphill running is a continuous battle against gravity, a lighter body weight translates into a major advantage over time. Shed a few pounds and you might see an increase in your score.
How to use the Hill Score feature
A Garmin Hill Score requires at least two weeks of workout data, with a significant proportion of that time spent running up hills. To get meaningful estimations over hills on numerous runs, you must be outside and recording your heart rate.
You can see your current score on your watch and follow it over time with Garmin Connect.
The analytics engine that calculates your score also delivers personalised feedback to assist you in improving. Including more uphill jogging in your training activities can, for example, help you improve your Hill Score. A greater VO2 max is also important on your path to become a masterful hill runner. Of course, all of this takes hard work. You will repeatedly need to face some hills head-on in order to realise your full potential!
As shown in the images above, in addition to an overall Hill Score, you are also able to see the score for the three elements that combine to form the metric. That way you know whether you should focus more on low or high-intensity hill running.
Coming to more Garmin watches
The Garmin Hill Score is a great tool for runners that provides a thorough insight of your uphill running abilities. Put in an honest day’s work to enhance your hill score and become a more efficient and strong runner by working on hill endurance, hill strength, and VO2 max. At present, this feature is exclusive to the recently launched Garmin Fenix 7 Pro and Epix Pro.
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The good news is that Garmin intends to broaden the availability of this feature to an expanded selection of its watches in the Q3 firmware update cycle. Expect to see this feature in Beta in the coming weeks. Users of the Fenix 7 series, Enduro 2, Tactix 7, Epix & MARQ 2 models, as well as the 955 and 965 Forerunners should all get Hill Score.
In fact, the Forerunner 955 just received it a few days ago. No doubt, other high-end watches in Garmin’s range will get the feature in the weeks ahead.
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