This morning’s hill workout reminded me why I love hills – it’s the perfect combination of really hard and totally satisfying. Hill training is tough – but it’s an important component to training, even if you aren’t planning to run a hilly race. Hill training is hugely beneficial to runners, and enables the body to adapt to new levels. If you do it once/week, your body begins to adapt to the stresses. In other words, you become a stronger and faster runner!
Hills can be intimidating because they take more work than running on a flat surface. When running up hill, your legs have to recruit more muscles fibers, which causes the muscles to fatigue faster. However, if you incorporate weekly hill training into your program, your body adapts to the stresses – and becomes stronger. Just like leg extensions increase fast twitch muscle fibers – hill training utilizes the same muscles, and make you stronger runner.
Often called speed training in disguise, hill training can quickly increase your speed. The muscles you recruit to run up a hill are the same ones used for sprinting, and over time, will build strength and speed. When incorporated into your weekly training schedule, hill training will improve anaerobic fitness and develop maximum strength (to improve speed).
It is important to remember that hill training, like speed or tempo training, should only be utilized once/week. Living near the Custis and Washington & Old Dominion Trails, I am fortunate to have many hill options. Below is my favorite hill workout – keeping in mind that this workout can be modified according to your training schedule & abilities.
1-2 mile warm-up
6-8 x 400m hill sprints; followed by 30 second recovery run (continue running through hill, if possible); turnaround and pick-up pace as your run downhill
15 seconds rest (at the bottom of the hill)
(Optional: 10 push-ups before next repeat)
1 – 2 mile cool-down
Hit the Hills with perfect form*:
1. Drive hard with your arms
Increase your armswing as if you’re pulling yourself quickly up a rope.
2. Press forward with your hips
As you run up, think about pressing your hips into the hill to avoid bending at the waist.
3. Run with high knees
This will help increase your stride rate and further help you maintain good posture.
4. Spring up from your toes
Push off your toes to create an upward lift that will help propel you forward.
Do you have a favorite hill workout?
*Adapted from Runner’s World Magazine