Often times a marathon is advertised as “flat” as a reason to register. But some of the best marathons are the hilly ones. The hillier marathons are usually the most beautiful. Embrace the hills by preparing for them!
Yet hill workouts aren’t just for preparing 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 stronger runner no matter what you’re training for!
Hill Running Basics:
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.
I usually do an easy jog for about two miles to the base of the hill. You should get 10-15 minutes of slow jogging in to warm up the body before you arrive at the bottom of your hill.
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.
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, as well as the distance and grade of your hill. Generally, my coach has me do several short hill sprints (about 20 repeats of a 100m hill). However, the schedule my running club follows includes longer repeats (about 1/2 mile up and down) so that schedule maxes out at 8-10 repeats.
If you are new to running, I would recommend the lower end of the range, but if you are an experienced runner 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 runner.
Here are a few other reasons I found to encourage you to incorporate hills into your training:
1. They help prevent shin splints
2. Those who train on hills are less likely to lose fitness if they take time off of running. (source)
3. Hill repeats help to improve your form and stride.
4. Hill training will boost your metabolism.
I challenge you to add a hill workout into your training. Let me know how it goes!