Getting faster in a race needs some training effort that is not only logical but also fair I guess. But there are different possibilities how you can increase your race pace. I’ve been writing about several training methods in the past few weeks like the long run, Fartlek runs and interval training and will add this piece to the list which is about hill training.
There are several advantages of hill training no matter if you race in the flat or on hilly trails. For starters hill training adds some variety to your training which is great if you’re sick of flat tempo or interval sessions. Obviously running up a hill is pretty intense so you feel right away that your cardiovascular system as well as your muscles get trained quite hard. One of the great things about hill running is that it not only strengthens all muscles involved but it also uses different muscle fibers as when running in the flat. A broad trained musculoskeletal system helps you prevent injuries especially when running on technical trails because you have more stability and a proper running form.
Also you get a variation of your gait when changing uphill and downhill runs. Research suggests that this change prevents the nervous system from fatigue compared to a steady paced run in the flat where your brain gets exactly the same stimulus over and over again.
To get the benefits described above I suggest you include one or more of these three hill workouts into your training routine:
For this workout you need a 5-10% graded hill section. After warming up with moderate running for about 15 minutes you then sprint up that hill for about 20 to 30 seconds with your maximum possible pace. You then jog or walk back down to get some rest. You can repeat this routine several times. If you do this the first time I suggest you do no more than five repetitions and add one more each time you do this workout. When this is too easy for you it’s also possible to increase the sprint time to 40 seconds or more and do up to 15 of these sprints.
The hill sprint workout is very intense but it will improve your aerobic capacity as well as your anaerobic performance in addition to the benefits mentioned above. This for me is the hill version of high intensity interval training that showed to be a very efficient training method.
Ideal for the long hill repeats is a section of road or trail that is about half a mile (800 meters) long and has some uphill as well as downhill sections. After warming up for 15 minutes run this half-mile section at around 90% of your maximum heart rate. Try to keep the intensity high also on the downhill section and keep and eye on proper running form. After you have completed the section rest with walking for 1 or 2 minutes. Repeat the section 5 to 8 times. Of course you can also extend this workout if it’s getting to easy as you improve over time. Search a harder section with steeper slopes or increase the number of repetitions.
Now this is my favorite of the three workouts presented in this post and I do it regularly to train for mountain trail races. The idea is simple: Just map out a route with some hilly sections in it and run it at a steady moderate pace. My hill runs are usually 8 to 20 miles depending if I just want to improve my pace or train for a mountain Marathon or ultra. As with the other workouts warm up for 15 minutes and also don’t forget to cool down afterwards, running around 10 minutes in the flat at a very easy pace. You can vary the hill run in several ways. Change the distance, the hills on the way or the surface you run on. Also try to keep the downhill sections intense when you are a bit more advanced. The more different runs you do the more you can benefit from all the advantages of hill workouts.
Bare in mind that all hill workouts are intense training and you shouldn’t overdo it because otherwise you’ll risk injury or over-training. Warm up and cool down, stretch after the training session and just do one intense workout per week.
What is your favorite hill workout? Let us know in the comment sections.