I’ve got a few coaching clients that have some hilly races coming up. So, I’ve worked hill repeats into their plans. It also got me to thinking – I’ve got a half marathon coming up in a couple of months that had some hills that kicked my butt last year. Maybe I’d better get out there and get some hill repeats done.
This morning – I did just that. Ran to my hill of choice (about a mile away) that is approximately 1/4 of a mile. Did my repeats as planned and then cooled down on the run back home.
I was pleasantly surprised by how well they went. And, the pace that I was able to keep up. And, by the fact that my best one was my last one! Wasn’t expecting it to go so well since it had been awhile since I’ve run hill repeats. There’s plenty of hills around my house – just haven’t done the repeats.
If you are fairly new to running – you may be wondering why on earth would a person run hill repeats. Running hills will strengthen your calves, hamstrings, quads and glutes more so than running on flat surfaces. This will definitely make you a stronger runner and will make running seem easier on all surfaces. Strengthening these muscles will also help prevent injuries from running.
Hill running will also help you to get faster. Believe it or not, the same muscles that you use to run hills are the same ones that you use for speed work. So, when you come to a hill, just remember that it has many advantages for you. Running hills are something that many runners put into their schedule about once a week to make them a stronger runner.
To properly run hills, you want to maintain the effort that you were with when you started up the hill. Yes, you will run slower up the hill, but you make it up the hill without running out of breath when you reach the top. Your stride will shorten slightly as you go up the hill depending on the degree of incline. Then, you will lengthen it back out to normal as you reach the top of the hill.
You want to run up the hill with your back straight – or maybe leaning a little. Many runners make the mistake of hunching over as they run up a hill. This will hamper your breathing as you run up. Make sure that you are looking straight ahead – you don’t want to keep looking at your feet. Running with incorrect form will make hills seem a lot tougher than they are.
Your arm swing is important to getting up hills, also. Your arms should be moving forward and back as you normally do as you run. Also make sure that are not clenching your fists. This will make you overly tired and will also restrict blood flow through your arms as you are pumping them to run up the hill.
Here are some tips if you want to start putting hill repeats into your workout.
Find a hill for your hill repeats that is approximately 500-600 feet long. You want the hill to be steep enough that you are tested – but you want to be able to maintain proper form as you climb.
You want to make sure that you are warming up before you start your hill repeats. A nice slow and easy 1½ miles is a good warm-up before you get to your hill. You want to speed up slightly as you start up the hill – a good rule of thumb is your 5K pace. Push yourself, but make sure that you are keeping proper running form.
Make sure that you are not looking at your feet – concentrate on 10-15 feet ahead of you. This keeps you focused your hill. It is also important to make sure that you keep your shoulders relaxed – don’t tense up. As you pump your arms, keep them low and swinging front to back. Some runners cross them side to side in front of them – and this will hamper you in getting up the hill. Keeping your arms pumping lower and your stride will shorten and quicken – which will also help propel you up the hill.
As you reach the top of the hill – don’t stop – keep running through the crest of the hill. Slow down and jog slowly down the hill for your recovery. Then, do the hill again. After your repeats, make sure that you do an easy mile or so for a cool down.
To begin, you only should do 2-3 repeats during a workout. Then, you can add 1 repeat a week. Most advanced runners will run between 8-10 repeats in their workout. Also, you only need to do hill repeats once a week. You may also want to do different hills for your workouts – trying steeper hills one week and a longer hill another week.
That’s it! Learn to embrace hills! They will make you a better/faster/stronger runner overall! You may even come to like them!