Looking to get faster, fitter and stronger? Well, you better head to the hills. Hill training is one of the best ways to shock your body into shape and will almost guarantee an improvement in your performance. Believe me – after 10 years of training or running in some sort of capacity, I genuinely became a better runner after tackling those hills.
What do I mean by hill training?
The clue is in the name – put simply, hill training means running up and down hills. This can range from long hill runs and long hill repeats to short uphill sprints. You could even throw it into your run commute to and from work.
I live in the valley that is Hampstead Garden Suburbs, so hills are a part of my training. What with my return journey from work including a steady climb from the Finchley road to Hampstead and a rapid decline down one of the famous millionaire rows. Even this can really help build strength and endurance in my legs and lungs.
If you’re not convinced by my ramblings, then look to some of the best long-distance runners in the world. Ethiopian and Kenyan runners all train on hills. So if you want to run like these fantastic athletes, you need to train like them.
How to hill train?
Here’s some advice I’ve edited down from my bible Build Your Running Body: A Total-Body Fitness Plan for All Distance Runners, from Milers to Ultramarathoners (put it on your Xmas list):
- Find a hill that’s challenging but not impossible – you want to be able to maintain a good stride
- Decide on your lap marker for hill repeats
- Run at 1500m – 3K effort (not pace as this is virtually impossible)
- Always finish with a little bit left in the engine – you want to feel strong but not broken. In other words, like you could possibly do another one or two reps
How different types of hill training can help?
Again this is adapted from my bible (see above) but in general:
- Short hill repeats (30-45 seconds) can build stroke volume, which is the amount of blood pumped from left ventricle of heart to the rest of the body. Essentially, an increase in stroke volume means more blood can circulate through your body although it does plateau. (I’m not expert but this sounds like a good thing.) To make the most of it, stop at the end of each rep, walk recover for 10-15 seconds, and then jog back to the start to go again another 8-15 times depending on your experience.
- Longer hill repeats (90-120 seconds) can improve your fast-twitch muscles fibres, muscular strength and build your running powerhouse. Aim for 4-8 reps with 2-5 minutes recovery depending on experience and rep length, e.g. if the rep length is 120 seconds, you’re looking for a recovery time of 4-5 minutes
In short, you’ll be better all round.
It’s not going to be easy, you will feel the burn and you may want to puke but boy, it’ll be worth it come raceday. Add one session to your weekly training now and hit those numbers come spring.