Hill workouts can boost your running economy, functional strength, neuromuscular activation, lactate threshold and VO2 max. Who doesn’t want all that? The length of the hill, intensity of the effort and the recovery period will all play their role in determining the exact benefits from the hill session.
There are various ways to implement hills into your weekly running schedule depending on the time of year and the over-arching goal of your training block. Hillier long runs have their place as do undulating aerobic threshold or tempo runs but here we will look at hill repeats specifically.
- Moderate gradients (4-7%) are best with good stable surfaces. Anything steeper is likely to change run mechanics, landing patterns and muscle activation considerably.
- Long enough to allow your desired rep duration at goal pace.
- Free from traffic or road crossings.
- Treadmill can be utilised where necessary but beware the belt will be doing some of the work for your posterior chain muscles.
- In the region of tempo to threshold and possibly as high as 5k. Note this is effort level and not pace or HR. So we are looking at a 7-8/10 effort. Although they are often termed hill sprints for the majority of endurance athletes sprinting is likely not the best option.
- Quality over quantity. Maintain focus on form/technique during this session. Upright posture with head up, high cadence focused on generating force into the ground and reducing ground contact time.
- Full - to maintain quality (don’t be tempted to turn this into a continuous run). In the region of 1:2–1:3 work:recovery ratio. Typically walking down the hill again often works well but it may also be beneficial to include a short passive rest at the bottom.
- Manipulating the work;recovery ratio can dramatically change the nature of the hill rep session.
- Push the effort to 8-9/10 but always hold something back.
- Lengthen the interval duration.
Example Short Hill Reps Workouts:
6-12 x 30s with 90s walk/jog down recovery
6-8 x 45s 2mins walk recovery
5-6 x 60s 2-3mins walk recovery
4-5 x 90s 3-4mins walk recovery