Lets face it, no one likes running hills. They can kill your legs for days and leave you with little energy in reserve. However, in my opinion there is no better way to strengthen and prepare legs for running than to run hills.
Ive often found myself in a difficult part of a race where Im facing a step hill or series of hills and have found that my hill workouts give me an edge over others. Seeing their face when I truck right past them is priceless and makes all the hard training worthwhile.
The trick is not to dread hill running but to incorporate it properly and to find a way to make it fun. Here are some tips and techniques for doing just that:
- Use Hill Running as a replacement or compliment to strength training routines. Although I prefer that runners incorporate a solid weight training routine and use hills to supplement, for those hectic weeks you can use hills to accomplish two goals at once.
- Sprint up small hills as fast as you cannot only will this quicken the experience, but it will also recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are important to build. Youll be able to build strength and improve quickness.
- Find a long hill or series of hills and take your time at a steady pace. I like to envision myself climbing a mountain and keeping my pace a bit shorter and steadier than normal. Keep your back straight and work through the pain. This will give you that extra stamina to tackle any hill.
- Try bleacher workouts. For those of you that have access to a track with bleachers, try running laps with bleacher runs integrated into them. Take as many trips up/down as you can per lap. Go for 4-8 laps at a minimum taking a relaxed pace during the lap portion and a fast pace through the bleachers.
- Make hills part of your weekly runs. Find a route that has a good mix of hills and run it a few times per week. This will simulate race conditions and help you overcome your dread of hills. Soon, those big hills wont seem so bad.
Hill Training doesnt have to be integrated into every run, but it should be done once per week to really see improvement. Even if you only do a few hill sprints or intervals per day, youll start seeing results within weeks. I know hill training really helps me blow through hills on race day and my legs are stronger because of it. Find a way to enjoy it and stick to it, youll be pleased with the results.