Few Thoughts about Hill Training
Many excellent running programs incorporate hill training. Hill
promotes the development of lower leg and quad strength; a good hill
session combines the benefits of weight training with the aerobic and
conditioning of running. In addition, hill training strengthens
mentally; completing these tough workouts will help you deal with the
discomfort of racing.
While there are a number of different types of hill
training, here are
three of the most common types of hill workouts:
STAMINA HILLS are generally the most useful workout for most distance
The remainder of this article will focus mostly on STAMINA HILLS.
- Speed and Power Hills - short, fast runs up
steep hills with ample
recovery between reps to promote explosive speed
- Downhill Sprinting or Strides - short, very
runs down a gently
sloping hill to promote quick leg turnover
- Stamina Hills - longer, "crisp" paced runs
hills to promote endurance and strength
The problem with the way many people do STAMINA HILLS is that too
much recovery is taken between reps. If you run up a
hill hard and jog down it, then you are going to be doing a 1:1
ratio at best (and probably more like 1:1.25 or 1.5.) This is too
much rest. A better way to do hills to build stamina is to have
a 1:0.5 work/rest ratio.
So how do you do this short work/rest thing. (Get driven
down the hill?
This doesn't work well - we actually did this in high school!!!)
Nope, the key is running RECTANGULAR HILLS. How is this
- Find a hill that will take you about a 1 to 2 minutes
- Run hard for 30 seconds in a direction 90 degrees
from the up hill,
turn right and run up the hill, then turn right and run 30
seconds at the top of the hill.
- Now jog down the hill back to the start. This
should result in
a 2 to 3 minute hill rep with about a 90 second recovery between
If you can't find a 1 to 2 minute up hill, then there's nothing wrong
with making yourself a 2 to 3 minute hill circuit course with 2
even 3 shorter hills in it. Again, if you do this, limit the
jog to about 60 to 90 seconds.
A RECTANGULAR HILLS workout should take you
between 35 and 65
minutes to complete. For example, you could start by warming up with 10
minutes of jogging, then run 15 minutes of hill reps (i.e. 5 x 3 minute
hill reps), and finish with 10 minutes of jogging. By adding 5
to the hill reps part of the workout per week, you could be at 65
for the workout in 7 weeks (i.e. 10 minutes warm up, 45 minutes of
10 minutes of cool down.)
Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions about hill
WHEN SHOULD I
Hill training can be incorporated into a number of different training
WHEN SHOULD I
AVOID HILL TRAINING? Hill
training should be
Training - From Week
12 to Week 7 in a 16-week marathon program
- During the entire
cross country running season with the exception of the last two or
- Track or
Racing - For 6
to 12 weeks in the late base or pre-competition phase of training
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I HILL TRAIN?
As a general rule, hill training is done once per week - done properly,
these sessions are very demanding. One exception might be with
country training where you might add a second weekly hill training
However, this second session should focus on speed and power hills
run quickly up a steep hill of about 10-20 seconds, walk down slowly
nearly full recovery, repeat 10 to 15 times.)
- Very early
the training cycle
- You need to build up some basic endurance and strength before
- Very late
the training cycle
- Hill training can take the "snap" out of your legs for a few days,
what you don't need when you're peaking for an important race.
- When you
injured - Hill
running (especially down hill running) is very stressful on the legs.
HOW LONG AND STEEP DOES THE
HILL NEED TO BE? Obviously the
where you live
and train will dictate the type of hill you can train on; you've got to
work with what you've got. The ideal hill for a strength and
hill workout should take you about 90 seconds to climb. The grade
should be steep enough that you "feel the burn" in your legs over the
half or quarter of the hill repeat, yet not so steep that your normal
form is significantly compromised. A grass or soft dirt surface
preferable for running up (and especially down) hills.
INTO MY EVERYDAY RUNS?
is nothing wrong with running up and down hills as part of your
runs. In fact, if you plan to race over hilly courses, you need
practice running over hilly terrain at least two or three
times per week. However, like almost anything else, you can
it. You should avoid hilly terrain on your recovery runs.
more than three days in a row on a hilly course is more than most
WHAT MODIFICATIONS TO MY
RUNNING FORM TO I
NEED TO MAKE? Climbing hills
a slightly modified running technique. This involves shortening
normal stride, dropping your shoulders to ensure a lower arm carriage,
and leaning slightly forward into the hill. You should aim for a
strong, steady and consistent pace throughout the hill rep.
Running downhill also requires
Again, shortening the stride and leaning slightly forward is
For steep down hills, thinking about leaping from one foot to the other
can be an effective way to quickly negotiate the hill.
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