Hill training explained

What is hill training, and what benefits can you expect? The Running Bug explains all.

Hill training explained

What is it?

Running short intervals on a hill, or running across hilly terrain and adding in efforts. Hills provide resistance – working on hills is like going to an outdoor gym.



Hills with benefits

Hill training increases your aerobic capacity (you'll need to use less oxygen at longer distances) and improves your running economy (you use less oxygen to run faster) - and as it's high intensity, it's a great calorie burner. It builds strength in your glutes, quads and calf muscles, so is fantastic for toning and sculpting your bottom half.

Hill work increases your ankle flexion, meaning you ‘pop’ off the ground quickly when you run. Hills will also improve your stride length (from uphill running) and your stride frequency (from downhill running).

How to do it

Run a hill session every three to four weeks, to replace a speed session (depending on the race - a hilly race obviously requires more hill running). Hills are a good way for beginners to get started on speed sessions at the track, as they build strength.

Training on a short hill for 30 to 60 seconds will help sprint speed and anaerobic capacities, and a longer hill rep of two to three minutes will boost endurance. Aim to do between eight and 12 reps. Kenyans use hills and fartlek training. Find a hilly loop of two miles or so and intersperse two-minute bursts with easy jogging.

Hill technique tips

Uphill

  • Don't lean too far forwards, keep looking to the top and keep yourself upright. If you look down, you'll lean into the hill, which is less efficient.
  • Make your stride shorter and use a high knee drive.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body.
  • Push off the back foot - think antelope, not elephant. And run on the balls of your feet.
  • Keep on running when you reach the top - only relax when you’re over the top.

Downhill

  • Relax - unclench your fists, let your arms go loose and just let it happen. Don't put on the brakes - but don't sprint, either.
  • Your stride length increases as you run downhill, but if you're running down lots of hills, conserve the strength in your quadriceps by shortening your stride.
  • Running down hills works on your leg turnover, which is key to fast running during races. Your maximal stride rate is controlled by your neuromuscular system, and quick leg turnover is best achieved through practice. Downhill training teaches your nervous system to let you run fast.


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