In our new training series, we’ll be introducing some of the training methods you can use to help you improve your running and your parkrun PB, whilst showing how a couple of tweaks to your mid-week training can help you become a more confident runner, whatever your aspirations.
In this instalment, we’re discussing Hill Training.
To help us to do so, we’ve enlisted the help of Alli Crossman. Alli is a former 800m runner who now coaches a number of athletes, from sub-elite distance runners to up-and-coming young athletes across various distances.
What is hill training?
Put simply, hill training is running repetitions up a slope. This provides resistance, and results in your legs gaining strength and helps to improve your running form.
It is perfect training for running faster 5k times as it improves endurance, therefore making you stronger over distance.
What are the benefits of hill training?
By regularly including a hill workout to your training you will gain fitness, improve strength and your running efficiency.
As well as the fitness benefits, hills are also a great way of adding variation to your training and are a free form of strength training without the need for gym membership.
Best of all it’s a fun way (honest!) of getting outdoors and exploring your local area. Elite runners include hills as a regular part of their training, especially in the winter months, but they are just as useful to all runners, whatever level you are and an excellent way of improving your parkrun time.
How should you include it in your training?
Initially, I would recommend introducing a hill workout to your training every couple of weeks, and on a day where you are rested. Better not to do it the day after a long run, the day before a race, or an attempt at running your parkrun PB!
The day after a hill workout, if you are planning to run, then make sure you run easy, slow your pace down and use the run as recovery.
As time goes on and strength improves, weekly hill workouts can be built into your training or alternate hill sessions with other workouts. For example: one week build in a hill workout and then the following week an off-road interval workout.
Example hill workouts:
To get you started here are a few workouts to try out. Always make sure that you thoroughly warm up with an easy jog of a mile or more before you hit the hills, and incorporate a cool-down jog afterwards.
Workout one (starter level)
If you have not run a hill workout before and want to get a taste of what is involved, then an easy way to incorporate hills is to run efforts up the hills over a 1 to 2 mile loop. You will need a loop with a few hills of varying degrees and distance.
Run at an easy-steady pace on the flat. Once you get to the first hill run hard right to just over the crest of the hill. Then easy run from the top of the hill onto the next one – and repeat. Do as many times as you feel you can handle.
To progress the difficulty of this workout, after each hill effort, walk or jog back to the foot of the hill and repeat three times before easy running to the next hill.
Workout two (5 x 200-400 yard sprints)
Find a hill of around 200-400 yards in distance. It does not need to be a steep hill; a gentle climb will do just fine. Run as hard as you can up the hill to just over the crest of the hill. Dependent on ability, either walk or very slowly jog back down to the foot of the hill, and then repeat.
Try five hill efforts. Then, if you feel up to trying another set, walk or easy jog for five minutes before starting another set of five sprints.
Workout three (8 x 400-600 yards + 200-300 yards)
This workout is my favorite, although you may not think that when you’re doing it!
Alli’s top tips
You don’t need to find a mountain to run up! A gentle slope will give you lots of benefit and minimize the chance of injury.
Hill workouts may sound tough, but if you can get a friend to join you, then you can work together. If one of you usually runs at a faster pace, then the faster runner can start each hard run up the hill a few seconds later and you can use the chase to motivate each other.
At first you may feel that you cannot jog down the hill on the recovery – that is no problem, simply walk down. Always do the hills to your own ability, not anyone else’s, and as you become more experienced, gently build up the number of hill repetitions. Most importantly, enjoy!
What if you’re a flatlander?
If your local parkrun is in Aspen, CO, chances are you get to run plenty of hills already. But not so likely if your home event is Livonia, MI. But you may have alternatives that can fill the same role as hills. Maybe you can run the steps of a stadium, Rocky style. Or perhaps it’s the northern winter, so you can get extra resistance by running through fresh snow. Or maybe you could try some running on a sandy beach.
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