Hill running is beneficial to all track and field athletes. The father of one of my athletes tells of how he used to regularly see Colin Jackson sprinting up Cyncoed Hill in Cardiff. Even throwers use short, steep hills to build power in their legs. You’ll find it very hard to find an elite, middle or long distance runner who doesn’t do hill sessions at some point during the year. Seb Coe really earned his world records and Olympic titles with some 40x100m, at 10% gradient, hill sessions (yes, you read all of those eye watering numbers correctly,) and the Kenyans swear by long runs over hills in the Rift Valley. In this blog I’ll explain the benefits of hill running and the different types of session you can try.
What Are The Benefits Of Hill Running?
Running hills improves your technique by encouraging you to engage your arms and raise your knees higher, and it promotes greater ankle flexibility.
Hill running also builds your speed. You have fast, medium and slow twitch fibres in your muscles. You engage the same fast twitch fibres running up hills as you do by completing a faster track workout.
Running hills will also help to strengthen the muscles in your glutes and legs, making them able to run for longer without tiring.
Your heart rate will pick up as you run up hills which will improve you aerobically and anaerobically. Hill running really pushes your powers of recovery, which you’ll find helps with any other interval work you do.
Fairly obvious but often overlooked, running on hills will naturally prepare you for races with hills in. You’ll notice yourself powering past other runners who have done less hill work than you.
What Are The Different Types Of Hill Session?
Generally the shorter the distance you’re training for, the shorter and steeper the rep. However, if you’re new to hill running it’s best to build up from less steep gradients, even if you’re training for a fairly short race.
Short hills: These should take around 20-30 seconds to run up.
Medium hills: These should take 40-90 seconds to run up.
Long hills: These will take over 90 seconds.
Kenyan hills: These are long reps where you run a loop which involves a hill. You run hard on the uphill and flat sections and recover on downhills. When you get back to the starting point you continue running as reps are defined by time as opposed to distance or circuits. The time of each rep tends to vary from three to ten minutes.
Treadmill hill running: Many treadmills have a selection of pre-programmed hill workouts you can try. This can be useful if you live in a flat area or if it’s icy outside.
Stairs/steps: Another option for those living in flat areas is running up stairs or steps instead of steep hills.
Downhill sessions: These have their purpose if you feel you need more confidence or a better downhill running technique. Otherwise avoid them, as they do put extra stress on the legs.
Hill running improves your technique by encouraging you to engage your arms and raise your knees higher, and it promotes greater ankle flexibility
It builds your speed, engaging the same fast twitch fibres as you would by completing a faster track workout
It strengthens your glutes and legs, making them more fatigue-resistant
It will improve you aerobically and anaerobically, benefitting your powers of recovery
It will prepare you for races with hills in
Short hill reps take around 20-30 seconds to run up, medium take 30-90 seconds and long hill reps take 90-180 seconds
Kenyan hills are loops involving hills where reps are done in timed intervals
Stairs or a treadmill can also be used for hill workouts