Hill repeats are an excellent way for runners to build strength and improve their speed. Hills make us better runners. Hills are our friends!I know that I blamed my poor performance at the Flying Pig marathon on the hills (and the heat), but I also can’t avoid every interesting marathon just because of a few hills. The hillier marathons are usually the most beautiful, so doing hill workouts to prepare is a must.Yet hill workouts aren’t just for hilly marathons. You can reap the rewards of hill training when you run on the flats as well. Hill training will make you a better runner overall!With that said, our run club incorporates hill workouts into our marathon training plan, and it’s on the schedule for people training for hilly marathons like Flying Pig or pancake-flat races like Chicago.
Monday night was the Calhoun Beach Running Club‘s first hill workout of the fall marathon training season. Even in a stereotypical flat city like Minneapolis, we are able to find a hill to do repeats on!
Our workout hill is a 1/2 mile hill on Kenwood Parkway. The hill that you choose to train on might be longer or steeper than ours, but the basic idea of doing a hill repeat should be the same. Generally, the idea is that you will run up the hill fast/hard, and then you recover by jogging down super easy. This type of hill workouts is fantastic for improving VO2 max and increasing muscle strength. In fact, I have read that hill repeats are basically a form of strength training:
“The forceful contractions caused by the lifting of the hips, glutes and quads when you’re running up the hill utilizes the same principle mechanics as many plyometric exercises. Also, because these long hill repeats are often very intense, they are a great VO2 max workout. The muscle groups you use to overcome hills are virtually the same as those you use for sprinting, so hill work enhances your speed. This strengthening effect is supplemented by the fact that hill workouts help increase both the frequency and length of your stride — you get even faster. As a final added bonus, hill training also strengthens the muscles around your knees, helping to reduce knee injuries.” source
Here are some tips and training ideas for your hill training.
Don’t stare at your feet. Instead try to focus on the ground a few feet ahead of you.
Run up the hill at your 5K “effort” pace. You’ll want to try to push yourself hard up the hill, keeping a consistent effort up the hill but then take it really easy on the downhill. When you reach the top of your hill, you should be feeling the burn…Turn around and recover by easy jogging down the hill.
When should I start hill training?
Ideally, you shouldn’t start incorporating hill training until you have 4-6 weeks of solid base training under your belt. We are in week 5 of the Twin Cities/Chicago training, so it’s a good time in their schedule for a hill workout. Unfortunately, since our marathon (the OBX marathon) is not until November, Dustin and I are technically just starting our OBX training. However, we are both experienced runners. I think a few extra weeks of training can’t hurt us.
How often should I do hill training?
Most sources I found said no more than once a week.
How many repeats should I do?
Your number of repeats depends on your experience and fitness level. Our training schedule always offers a range. Monday night’s range was 3-6 repeats. We max out during training with 8 repeats. If you are new to running, I would recommend the lower end of the range, but if you are an experienced marathoner who has been hitting all of the miles so far in training, then go for the higher end of the range.
Most coaches and experienced runners would agree that training on hills is a great idea for any marathon runner.
What about you? Do you train specifically on hills? Or are all your routes already hilly?