Former Olympian and marathon gold medalist Frank Shorter once said, “Hills are speedwork in disguise”. Truer words were never spoken and runners everywhere will tell you of their love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with hills — the burning sensation in your legs as you stride to the top, your lungs working overtime to get air in. So why then, do so many runners incorporate this seemingly tortuous session into their running workouts? Rebecca Rosel, long distance runner and Founder and Head coach of Generation Run, shares her top tips for hill run training.
What are the top 5 benefits of adding hill runs into my training sessions?
Hill running builds strength, stability, stamina, and power in our muscles. Strength and power can be directly applied thereafter on to the track and road for both cycling and running.
Increases quadricep, gluteal, and calf strength from the powerful drive needed to propel yourself up the hill. This creates change and adaptation in the muscles, allowing for a greater power output and faster speed on the flat. Strengthening these larger muscle groups will also serve to protect smaller muscles and joints.
Improve the strength, flexibility, and stability of tendons and ligaments around the knee and ankle joints to create greater steadiness and symmetry for running in general.
Helps to balance the impact on joints, some body types cannot deal with constant training on certain gradients hence, hill running provides a variance in impact as the body pushes uphill and controls down the hill.
Increases heart and lung capacity, especially during long climbs (400m plus) where the heart rate is high for prolonged periods of time.
How should I incorporate hills into my training? Do I just pick a big hill and go?
Start with a lesser gradient, all hills should be runnable. There is little point training to run on hills if you have to walk them (unless you are training for a hike!) Begin at no more than 20 seconds of uphill running effort for sprints, and build these in both time and distance gradually. At first, walk the return. When correct downhill running can be maintained then increase the amount of run-return that you do. Downhill running is mostly about confidence, we mustn’t brace the body.
Add a hill session into your training once a fortnight to begin with, and expect to pull up a bit sore. Don’t follow, or precede this session with a leg day in the gym or a long run/ride. You want to have impeccable technique when running hills and to do this, the body needs to be relatively fresh. Choose a hill with good footing. Firm gravel is better than concrete, especially on the descents.
Hopefully you’re now convinced of the power of a hills session! For a some more guidance on incorporating these sessions into your program, check out Part 2 – HOW to include hills in your run training
Sick of training alone and looking for a fun, friendly and like minded group of women to smash your goals with? We have two options available for you. Join our Melbourne squad to attend our weekly sessions that suit all abilities at fitness levels. If you live interstate, join the TriChicks Hub to gain access to all our training programs and training resources, and become a part of our online TriChicks Community! Click here for more info on our Melbourne Squad or here for all the details on the Hub