Running on the flat roads of your neighbourhood or a treadmill may be good exercise, but a great many races take place outdoors where the terrain is far more variable. You might find yourself struggling up elevations you have never done before and are not prepared to face.
To not only improve your conditioning, hill running vastly improves not only your race times but also your strength and burst speed in your legs!
What Can Hill Running Do for You?
Unless you have weights you can strap to your legs, hill running techniques up steep slopes are the only way to work your neuromuscular system 100%, as it works to maintain balance as you push hard at an incline. The slope also activates and strengthens your leg muscles in ways flat terrain cannot by forcing them to work harder to support your full weight against the pull of gravity.
Try These Hill Interval Workouts!
Steep Hill Intervals
To train on such an incline and improve running time, practice different types of interval training. To build up burst strength, sprint as hard as you can for 15 seconds. Rest for 3 minutes and then sprint again. Start by keeping this up for 6 revolutions, gradually increasing the number you do as you become better conditioned. Calm the muscles with a relaxed 10 minute cool down.
Uphill Cardio Work
This workout is mainly to engage your cardiovascular system. First, warm up for about 15 minutes to begin. Next, sprint up the hill with a 70% to 80% effort for 3 solid minutes. Rest for 3 minutes. Repeat this about 3 to 4 times, increasing the number of repetitions as you get better. Remember to do a 10 minute cool down after.
Sloping Pyramid Stacks
Another exercise that mixes both heavy cardio and burst speed is to follow a stacked routine, much like a pyramid is laid out.
First, have a warmup run for about 5 minutes at an intensity of 2 to 3. Next, run for 3 minutes at 40% to 50% effort, followed by a 90 seconds rest run at a 40% effort. Next, run for 4 minutes at 60% to 70% effort, and cool down a little, running at a 50% for 3 minutes. Follow this with 3 minutes at 70% to 80% and cool down a bit at a 50% for 4 minutes.
The penultimate should be 90 seconds at an 80% to 90% effort with a 4 minute cool down at 40% effort. Finally, run full out at a 100% for 30 seconds, and complete the workout with a nice 8 to 10 minute cool down run at a 20% to 30% effort.
What Goes Up, Must Come Down
After really working hard getting up the hill, you will have to head back down (arguably the most enjoyable part of the routine), and it’s important to know how to do so properly. Generally, the downhill run can cause a lot of unnecessary pressure from misplaced balance.
The opposite of uphill injuries, going downhill usually is performed with a lean that is too far back, displacing your centre of gravity. Remember to always look ahead of you as this keeps your core erect. By doing this, you offset the natural inclination to lean back to slow down, a move that puts all of the pressure on your heels.
No Hill is Too Steep to Overcome!
Hills are the bane of inexperienced and experienced runners alike. After all, Heartbreak Hill didn’t get its name for nothing! Practice on the steep inclines, and use them to make yourself an all-around better runner. With enough dedication and practice, your increased ability to sprint across flat land and tackle inclines with little effort with truly bring to light the meaning behind “no pain, no gain”!