Like most training plans out there that focus on training for endurance events you are likely to see “HILLS” on the program once or even twice a week. Not only do hill sessions keep training plans interesting and varied, they serve an important role in building your performance throughout the training cycle.
Hill running can be varied, and each session different, but most hill sessions without getting too technical serve as one of the best training methods to increase speed and strength. Just like a weight lifter will repetitively lift weight to increase strength, repetitive hill training will increase your bodies ability to withstand load over time and increase running efficiency.
So what kind of hill training can we do?
There are different sessions that can be done from short, sharp hill sessions to long rolling hill sessions to everything in-between. You can also incorporate hills into your long run. Here are some of my favourite sessions.
Find a hill around 100m long. Run up strong, jog down easy. Repeat this around 6-8 times.
Find a hill that has a slight incline then flattens out and then has a sharper incline to the top. Run up strong continuing to run strong on the flatter section and then pushing up the hill to the end of the incline. Walk or jog down. Repeat desired amount of times depending on the length of the hill.
Find a gradual hill around 150-200m long. Run first third easy, second third harder and last third of the hill at full effort under fatigue. Walk or jog down. Repeat around 6 times.
You can even use time as your motivator ie. Run 2mins uphill effort followed by jog down recovery x 6.
If your event has some really steep hills and you know that you probably will be hiking them, why not practice what it is like to run them? Practice running up steep hills, staying tall with a slight lean and keeping on your toes. Don’t bound up the hill but practice conserving your energy with little steps until you reach the top and recover back down and repeat. Even practice running off the top of a steep hill like this, or alternatively have a walk recovery at the top.
Things to remember when hill training…
ALWAYS make sure that you are warmed up before any hill session, so 10-15 minutes of light jogging and dynamic stretches to get the body ready for the load to come.
Pay attention to your form. Lean slightly into the hill but stay tall, running on the fore-foot (no heel striking) while imagining a pulley pulling you up the hill from the top of your head, drive your knee up and pump your arms. Stay strong, focus on you breathing and increase your cadence.
Similarly when running downhill, lean slightly forward and increase your cadence (trying not to lean back) and land on your forefoot. Try to stay light, keep your arms out beside you for balance if you need and go with the hill. Sometimes I even find if the hill is steep or on trail, skipping or zig-zagging down is beneficial.
Try to find a soft surface. If you have access to a trail or grass hill that is always better than training on bitumen for injury prevention. Pay attention if a trail to any hazards around such as large rocks, holes or sticks.
Pay attention to recovery during hill sessions. So you might recover back down with a walk or light jog or you may spend 30secs up to even 3 minutes at the bottom of the hill before you go again.
Cool down after any hard session, this helps aid the recovery process and stop future injury, so 10-15 minutes of light jogging or walking to finish.
No matter what hill session you choose you can be sure that when incorporating hill sessions into your weekly training, you will soon see the benefits in your general fitness and your overall performance.
Happy hill running!