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If you’ve ever found yourself at the foot of a steep hill during a run, you might be thinking this: Why would anyone intentionally run up hills as part of a workout? The answer to that question is relatively simple. Running up hills improves stride, and an improved stride means faster running. Because of its sheer difficulty, hill running improves muscle strength and stability, and this can do wonders for performance.
There is a mental aspect to hill running, too. Hills can be the hardest mental obstacle faced by runners, and repeating them over and over again can lessen the load come race day. And, like another dreaded workout—the so-called lactic threshold run—running up hills over and over again forces the body to adapt, and that adaptation results in less lactic acid buildup and, ultimately, a faster pace. Interested in integrating some hill work into your running life? Here are some excellent ways to do it.
30-Second Hill Sprints
After a 1-mile warm-up, hit the hill (if you’re inside, use a treadmill at a 5 percent incline) for 30 seconds at all-out speed. Walk or jog for 2 minutes. Repeat 5 times (for beginners), 8 times (for intermediate runners), or 12 times (for advanced runners). Finish with a one-mile cool-down.
1-Minute Hill Sprints
Start with a 2-mile warm-up, and then follow with 6 repeats of 60-second sprints (aim for your 10k pace). The recovery should be the run to the bottom of the hill if you’re outside, or one minute if you’re on the treadmill. Follow this with a 2-mile cool-down.
3-Minute Hill Sprints
These sprints are appropriate on longer hills during outdoor runs. Following a one-mile warm-up, run up the hill at the lactic threshold pace (uncomfortable, but not all-out). Jog or walk for three minutes before repeating. Beginners should repeat this exercise 3 times, while advanced runners should do 6. Follow with a 1-mile cool-down.