Hills are hard and they are brutal. Yet, however unforgiving they are in the resistance they provide, the benefits that come from regularly running up them are immense.
These take as little as 10-25 seconds to ascend at a fast pace and are ideal for power and speed focused athletes. Matt Long, a member of the Birmingham University AC coaching team, says the ideal incline is 35-45 degrees.
“Too steep and you will place undue stress on the calf muscles, back and hamstrings,” Long says. Take a full recovery by walking back down.
Lengthier hills on a lesser incline (think 25-35 degrees) are ideal for developing speed endurance and working the lactate energy system. “Aim for a hill that takes 25-45 seconds to climb at a decent speed,” suggests Long. “And jog back down to make sure your heart rate doesn’t drop too low before you start again.”
Generally, the longer the hill the less steep it should be, so if you are running upwards for one to three minutes, look for a slope of 15 to 25 degrees, ideal for runners looking to improve endurance. Long suggests “running over the top” of the hill for 20-60 metres to avoid repetitive long downhill jog recoveries.
This requires you to work out a pre-arranged loop of uphill, flat and downhill terrain that is run continuously. The length of the circuit can vary from 3 minutes running to as much as 30 minutes. “The idea is that the hilly bits are attacked with gusto and the downhill bits are slow,” says level 4 endurance coach David Lowes. “They offer huge potential for variety and change of pace.”
Basically a run with varied hill efforts interspersed en route. It works all of your energy systems in a single session and is great for pace training. “Make the hill efforts as different as possible,” suggests says UK Athletics level 2 coach and former Irish international runner, Paddy McGrath. “Some should be short, steep climbs, others longer slopes. That will challenge body as well as mind.”
Often overlooked in terms of its training benefits, but useful in terms of developing running economy and leg turnover. In his book Daniels’ Running Formula, the US-based running coach Jack Daniels warns against running on too steep a downhill and on too hard a surface – both can result in extreme stress on hips, ankles and knees. “Use a gradual hill, one of only 2-3% of slope,” Daniels writes. “And avoid over-striding; instead concentrate on a light, fast leg turnover. Make downhill running as if you are ‘rolling’ down the hill rather than bounding down.”
This article was first published in Running Monthly. For more of the latest running news, plus performance features and much more, grab a copy of the magazine or check out www.runningmonthly.com