Hills are our friends.
Probably one of the comments I hear the most form the group is “I hate hills” and my come back is that hills are our friends. Personally I don’t think there is any workout that we do that is better for you. The rather obvious benefit of hill workouts is that they make you better at running hills. Even better, you will see benefits on the flats, too.
The muscle groups you use to overcome hills are virtually the same as those you use for sprinting, so hill work enhances your speed. This strengthening effect is supplemented by the fact that hill workouts help increase both the frequency and length of your stride -- you get even faster. As a final added bonus, hill training also strengthens the muscles around your knees, helping to reduce knee injuries. You should, however, be cautious about hill work if you have an injury in your calf or Achilles tendon. Even if you do not, you should still be sure to stretch these areas of your legs especially well before starting making sure to run a 1-2 mile warm-up run before the workout.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I HILL TRAIN AND FOR HOW LONG?
As a general rule, hill training is done once per week - done properly, these sessions are very demanding. 6 weeks should be long enough to acquire the benefits of hill work.
HOW LONG AND STEEP DOES THE HILL NEED TO BE?
The ideal hill for a strength and stamina hill workout should take you about 90 seconds to climb. The grade should be steep enough that you "feel the burn" in your legs over the last half or quarter of the hill repeat, yet not so steep that your normal running form is significantly compromised. A grass or soft dirt surface is preferable for running up (and especially for the recovery jog back down the hill).
HOW MANY REPEATS SHOULD I DO?
Well let’s start with your fitness level and running experience. If you are new to running then I would start with 3 repeats adding 3 per week until you reach 9 repeats, if you are more advanced you can start with 6-9 building up to 9-12 repeats.
CHUCK’ S FAVORITE METHOD FOR RUNNING THIS WORKOUT:
Way back, when I was training for competition, as you can tell this one of my favorite workouts. I would always lose track of how many repeats I had done so I came up with a way to keep track. I split the workout into sets of three. Not wanting to deprive myself of the pleasure of the workout I decided to each repeat in each set a little different but each equally beneficial. So I came up with easy, medium and hard repeats. Don’t fool yourself though; the easy one is probably the hardest. So here is a description.
Concentrate on lifting your knees and pushing off hard with every step, attention to your "vertical" motion is at least as important as your forward motion up the hill. The strong push-off and high knee lifts will increase both your stride length and the range of motion in your hips: voila, you've increased your speed.
Basically the same but more focus on turnover, so run a little faster. To help with this think about using your upper body to help you up the hill. Imagine that you have ski poles in your hands and they are pushing you up the hills.
This one is easy to describe. You run up the hill as hard as you can. Enough said. It’s needless to mention that you are ready to go easy again after this one.
Many people will say to me that they have this hilly course that they run and they wonder if they were to run that hard would that have same effect as running the hill repeats that we do. I don’t really think so and many of you can attest to the fact the one of our hill workouts is probably a bit tougher. Speaking of tougher I forgot to mention that 6 weeks of this workout will make you mentally tougher which will help you in the latter stages of your races. Which you can imagine will make each race that much more rewarding in many ways. So remember hills our friends.