Hills? YES!!

March 17, 2017

Whatever your distance, hills are a MUST! Are you the type of runner who avoids a potentially exciting route, fearing the dreaded hill that lies ahead? The excuses curb our enthusiasm: I’m too tired... That looks exhausting… Not another challenge… HILLS ARE, AND SHOULD BE, A WORTHY PURSUIT! Improvement stems from occasionally pushing the comfort zone! Want to build speed and endurance, while preventing injury all in the same workout?? Of course you do! Embrace efficiency - let your hills cultivate excitement!



Running hills requires greater muscle extension and lift, while simultaneously combating the awesome force of gravity. On your quest to the crest, your hips, glutes, hams, quads, and calves must contract more powerfully to support your weight and propel you along. Hills provide resistance, which, like strength training, helps develop muscle. Adding hill sprints to the mix can produce specific adaptations in the neuromuscular system allowing your body to generate quicker force. Essentially, this will equate to being faster on flat ground and being able to push-it when fatigued. You will increase your muscular endurance because you are improving your neuromuscular responsiveness (many muscle groups firing simultaneously, which increases blood volume to the larger muscles).


There is less impact on your lower leg bones (tibia & fibula), ankles, and knee joints. Uphill running produces less impact upon landing, so your muscles absorb the shock better (Although downhill running creates greater impact; see below for good hill running form). As mentioned before, hills help you build up your hips, glutes, and hamstrings; these are areas of weakness in many runners. Deficiencies in these areas can cause injuries such as patella tendonitis aka, runner's knee; IT band syndrome; and piriformis issues, just to name a few.


- Shorten your stride and focus on picking up your knee

- Keep your arms close to your sides at a 90 degree swinging slightly up instead of just forward

- Shoulders back, head forward, no hunching; keep your chest open so you do not waste energy fighting for air



- Try to maintain a forefoot landing - a heel strike will create a brake-type of effect that is jarring to the body

- Short quick steps keeping your body upright (no hunching over, shoulders back, head up)

- Keep your arms lower at 90 degree bend Gravity does much of the work so try to relax your breathing



Start small! If you have never done hills before, start with a hill that has a small incline and let your body get acquainted with the hill before going for a full-out sprint. It’s essential to start early in your program, as they’re assist in injury prevention. Learn to focus more on effort than pace. It will make conquering hills easier and train your body to conserve energy on the throughout the ascent! Try to find a path with rolling hills and add this into your weekly runs 2-3 times a week. You will quickly discover the endurance and speed benefits.



- Short Explosive Sprints - Running 10-15 seconds at max effort up a steep hill. You power up the hill like your are sprinting into the finish of a race. After each repeat, rest for 2-3 minutes. You want to be fully recovered before the next one. This type of hill workout improves your neuromuscular system and increases max heart stroke volume (the amount of blood your heart can pump with each beat)


- Long Hill Repetitions - These are the traditional hill workout for most runners. This is a hard effort for 30-90 seconds, walking or jogging back down the hill for recovery. This is a great workout to improve VO2 Max (max amount of oxygen you can use) and increase muscle strength.


Rolling Hills - These are a non-specific timed type of hill workout. These types of hills you will encounter in races. Choose a route for your tempo or long run that has hills, a great place to find these hills here in MN is out in the country! Rolling hills on your runs provide your muscles the specific stimulus they will face on race day. You will teach yourself how to pace when encountering hills which will be helpful for race day.


Try this outdoor workout

- Warm up (2 miles to warm up at an easy pace)

- Then perform 10x50 second hill sprints trying to go a little farther each time, walking back down for full recovery

- Cool Down (run 2 miles at an easy pace)


Try this workout on the treadmill

- Warm-up (2 miles at an easy pace)

- Followed by 5 x 30-second strides.

- Increase the incline on your treadmill to a 6-8 percent grade and perform 4-6 400 Meter “climbs” at your 10K race pace with 3-4 minutes of easy, flat running between reps.

- Cool-down (2 miles at an easy pace)

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