Hill Training: Making Friends with Hills!

​From Craftsbury Running Camp Director Heidi Caldwell

David Sinclair and Adam Martin (L to R, 1st and 2nd in the Hill Farmstead Half Marathon) climbing steadily and showing good form for uphills

Saturday’s point-to-point half marathon from Craftsbury Outdoor Center to Hill Farmstead Brewery brought runners over a grueling 2,000 feet of elevation gain. To top it off, the final miles of the race had stretches of leg-slamming downhills, putting the hurt on already tired legs. Days after the race, hills are still on the mind. How do you run hills efficiently? How can you incorporate hills into your training? For those living in the Northeast Kingdom, hills are a mandatory element of most every run. The downside – it can be hard to get into a rhythm or give your legs a break. The upside – running a hilly route on an easy run can help improve general strength and form.

Adding a hill-specific workout into your training plan can bring further benefits. Hill repeats provide many physiological benefits, such as building strength, improving running economy, and increasing stamina. Shorter hill workouts (30-60 seconds of sustained hard effort up hill) work to improve speed and boost anaerobic capacity. Longer hill repeats (2-4 minutes of sustained hard effort) help build endurance and mental toughness. For form, focus on standing tall, driving your hips forward, and lifting your knees. “Hands to pockets” is a helpful queue when thinking about arm placement and driving your arms. Introduce hill workouts gradually, allowing the volume and intensity of the workouts to increase over time.

As our recent half marathon highlighted, hill training means focusing on both uphill and downhill running. Downhill running is an important component of a hill workout, building strength key to injury prevention. When running downhill, lean slightly into the hill and “let it fly”! Try adding downhill running repeats to your next hill workout.

Remember: Mixing it up is key to running training. Just as different types of workouts (interval, fartlek, tempo, etc.) are complimentary, so are different terrains. Depending on where you live, this may mean finding a flatter or hillier run once week.

Moral of the story: Hills are friends, not foes!

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