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Hill repeats can lead to improved strength, speed

April 22, 2013 at 9:03 p.m.
Updated April 21, 2013 at 11:22 p.m.

Hill training has often been referred to as speedwork in disguise.

You can gain a good deal of strength and speed by adding weekly or every other week hill training.

When you run hills, extra muscle fibers are used to propel your body up the hill. These muscle fibers recruited for hill running are not typically utilized or developed when running on flat terrain.

Therefore, when you race on a hilly course without having trained on hills, you are expecting untrained muscle fibers to work. This can lead to rapid fatigue and poor performance.

A combination of endurance and speed is needed to cover long distances at a quick speed. However, muscular fitness, which is a combination of strength, power and muscular endurance, is also needed to become stronger at endurance events.

You can gain some muscular strength and endurance in the weight room; however, you aren't necessarily using the same neuromuscular patterns as in running.

Running hills is a form of resistance training, and at the same time, hill running strengthens the running-specific leg muscles that meet the demands of running.

By adding in hill training where you work hard up the hills, you can strengthen the driving muscles - the hamstrings, buttocks, calves and quadriceps.

You are also developing your upper body, as you have to "pump" the arms to get up the hills.

Hill work will also help you to build resistance to fatigue, thus helping you to maintain good form throughout a longer run or race.

Use caution, as running hills can lead to injury.

Make sure to ease into hill training, slowly building up the number of repetitions and the length and incline you are running up. Also make sure to warm up properly prior to the beginning of a hill repeat workout.

I typically have my clients warm up for 15 minutes with some easy running on flat roads, along with some drill work which generally includes bounding, high knees and some lunges to stretch out the hip flexor area.

If an injury arises, skip hill workouts for a while and ease into speed training on flat roads. One example of a workout that I give to my clients is as follows:

Warm up for 15 minutes with easy running and perceived exertion of six on a one to 10 scale.

In the warmup, include two times 30 yards of bounding, kick butts, high knees and lunges. Then complete four to six hill repeats on a hill that takes approximately 90 seconds to two minutes to run up (approximately 200 meters). When running the hill repeat, run up the hill at a hard pace (perceived exertion of an eight to nine on one to 10 scale) and then recovery jog or walk back down the hill.

Conclude the run with a 10-minute jog cool down at an easy effort.

Hill workouts are an invaluable component of any well-planned training program.

By performing a hill workout every two to three weeks, you will start to see those times drop, a gain in endurance and improved performance come race day.

Missy Janzow received her B.S. in dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and owns Fit4U, a personalized coaching and nutrition business that serves to train the novice or seasoned triathlete or runner. You can reach her with your questions at janzowml@yahoo.com.


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