Run to the hills!

Often you will see programs that include hill repeats. There is a set distance run up with recovery running down and repeating the effort.  Why add hill training?

There are a few good reasons why:

  • Aerobic capacity: Studies have shown increased efficiency with our running in terms of the uptake of oxygen – by increased mitochondria (our energy power house), increased capillarization (Burfoot, 2005).
  • Muscular strength: As you have to work harder against gravity (we engage more muscles), higher turn over and added strength to quadriceps, glutes and calf muscles.
  • Technique: with regard to contact with the ground and turnover.  Coach and Author Brian Mackenzie (2007) states:
“ Hill work results in the calf muscles learning to contract more quickly and thereby generating work at a higher rate—they become more powerful. The calf muscle achieves this by recruiting more muscle fibres, around two or three times as many when compared to running on the flat. improves the power of the quads in the front of the thigh as they provide the high knee lift that is required….result: higher running speeds and shorter foot strike times.


You want to have a base of running before you tackle the hills.  Make sure you have been doing some speed work and longer runs.

Start with shorter reps and not too steep that you find it difficult to hold form.

I generally start with 3-4 repeats and build to 6-8 (depending on the level of runner).

On the uphill, you stride should shorten.  Taking smaller steps helps to maintain good turnover rate.

Your posture should be tall, upright.  Bending at the hips will limit hip flexion.  We need more hip flexion for the knee to lift higher and clear the ground.

You want a quick push off, staying light.  Ankle mobility will be important to ensure you can flick .of the ankle.

Run over the hill – meaning don’t slow down at the top, but carry momentum over the hill.

When running downhill, try and lean slightly forward, rather then back as this can cause a braking/jarring impact.  hill running

Often I will get runners to do a ‘combo’ session. This involves steady or tempo running followed by hill repeats. Pat Clohessy (coach of Robert De Castella), incorporated this type of session weekly.  This is good for conditioning and race practice.

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