Hill Running Workouts For Improved Overall Fitness

April 28, 2015

Whether you consider yourself a runner or not, hill running workouts can be a great addition to any fitness program.  Below are a few of the best reasons to run hills and specific workouts to address these benefits.

1. Short hill repeats
This workout will help coordinate and make your running more efficient.  You will be recruiting more of your fast twitch muscle fibers that we associate with sprinters and shorter distance runners.  Most long distance runners develop slow twitch, endurance type muscle fibers needed for longer, endurance events.  If you are not incorporating any faster, shorter speed work or hill workouts like this, the more difficulty you will have increasing your speed and efficiency.  With more muscle fiber recruitment, the more efficient your stride will become.  In beginning this workout you may feel awkward or uncoordinated at first, but over time things will smooth out.
The Workout:
If you have not done any short, fast hill workouts like this before, it’s extremely important to start out gradually.  There are a couple of ways to determine the grade of hill recommended.  You can use a treadmill to get a feel for the desired incline and then find a comparable hill.   You can also map out a hill on mapmyrun.com and divide the elevation in feet by the distance in feet x 100.   Rise/Run x 100=% grade.

    • Warm up: 1 mile or 10 minutes
    • 2-3 reps of 8-10 seconds up a 6% incline at 90-95% max. For recovery, walk back down the hill and wait until 2–3 minutes have passed.  That’s it!  Stop!  You will build strength and efficiency quickly, but to avoid injury do start out gradually.
    • Cool down with a 10 minute walk or run followed by stretching and foam rolling. Focus on your quads, calves, and hip flexors.
    • Add 1-2 reps weekly building to a maximum of 8-12 reps of 8-10 secs.

2. Long Hill Repeats
This workout will improve your overall cardio fitness as well as strength gains specific to running.  These intervals will be longer in length and a bit slower than the short hill repeats.  As with the short hill repeats, it’s important to warm up and not start out with too many or too fast of repeats.  Below is a good starting point on which to build.
The Workout:

        • Warm up: Run easily for 10-15 minutes, Accelerations in which you start out slowly and build to 80-90% max and then gradually slow down. Do that 4 times, 20 seconds each (4×20) on flat ground as part of your warm up.
        • Run two minutes up a gradual grade (4-6% grade) at moderate effort; jog 2/3 of the way back down the hill for recovery. Run one minute up the hill at a faster pace; jog halfway back down to your last starting point for recovery. Run 30 seconds harder than the last walk/jog all the way back down to the start of the hill for recovery. Repeat the entire set 2-4 times.
        • Cool down: Run easily for 10-15 minutes, stretch.

3. Long Hill Runs
These workouts are a must have for your training routine. The hill should be integrated into a favorite route or find a new one specific for this purpose. They are done at an effort level that is easier than the short or long repeat workouts.  The benefits of long hill runs include:

      • Strengthening muscle fibers, tendons and ligaments
      • Increasing ankle flexibility, improving our stride
      • Improving coordination and aerobic capacity

The Workout:
Find a route that includes a half-mile to a mile of moderately steep uphill you can use for your long run for the week.  Start out by doing these longer hill runs 1 time every other week.  As you get stronger and can comfortably complete these hills, you can increase the length of the hill or hills to 2–3 miles.  Remember that the pace for this workout should be less than the short and long repeats.

If you are interested in integrating hill runs into your training, please join Trainer Bob for First Friday Hill Runs at Ecliptic Brewing, 4:30pm.  He will provide specific workouts for the day.  This will get you in shape for Ecliptic’s Beer Mile on May 31st. Trainer Bob also does video gait analysis which is a GREAT way to learn more about your running and how you can tidy up your form for greater efficiency. AND…in case you missed our April Happy Hour Hill Run, here is what we did:

Happy Hour Hills April Workout
Warm-Up: Parking lot dynamic stretches followed by a 10 minute loop to the bottom of the long hill along N Mississippi Avenue and N Russell. We then did 4 accelerations, running forward for 30 seconds speeding up at the last 10 seconds. We then jogged back to our starting place. After we completed that we began a series of a minute of hill running at our best pace, then 30 seconds of walking back down the hill. We gradually made our way back to the Ecliptic Brewing Parking Lot where we cooled with an easy 5 minute jog and some stretches….and a well earned beer!