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Hill Workouts For Every Distance Runner

How do you know what hill workouts are best for your distance? Now that I’ve convinced you that running hills is beneficial for all runners, learn which hill workouts are best for any distance runner that you are on this week’s Running Coaches Corner!

Hills are beneficial for runners; so any hill workout should suffice, right? NOPE. One size does not fit all! Just like different workouts serve different purposes (Vo2 Max, Lactate threshold, short intervals, long intervals, etc), different hill workouts are suited to improve runners of particular distances. You wouldn’t do only long, easy runs if you were a sprinter, or only short, all out efforts if you were a marathoner, would you?

Hill Workouts For Every Distance Runner. What hills are best for you if you are running short or a marathon!

Hill Workouts for Distance Runners

Medium Length Run with Rolling Hills

Utilizing rolling hills is another excellent hill workout that is incredibly beneficial for those with hill races or who want to do a less structured hill workout. Running the hills at a consistent pace where you find yourself at a good 6-8 on the intensity scale and a happy medium with regards to distance, incline, and intensity will condition your legs and tendons, help you work on form, and also help you mentally prepare for harder hill workouts. I would call these “entry level” hill workouts, or whenever you just need a break or have a really hard workout coming later in the week. Make sure that you are already able to run the distance that you are going to be going to run and do rolling hills! 

Rolling Hills Medium Length Run Example: 6 mile run at foundation training pace (5-6 RPE) with hills of varying incline and length, equal recovery (if possible). Somewhat of a farlek of a run!

Short Hill Repeats

Short hill repeats are designed to rev your engine and work on speed, power, and anaerobic energy. Your pace will be faster than your race pace goal, the incline will be relatively steep, and you will go 80-100% of effort with the need for full recovery afterward. Full recovery means that you will be able to attack the next repeat as well as to make sure that you have proper form and not risk injury. Start with shorter length repeats and gradually increase the length, pace OR the incline over time (never all at once). A great time to add these in is during your base building mesocycle (remember periodization?) so that you can continue to increase the length or intensity as you progress through your training cycle.

Short Hill Repeat example: 20-90 seconds or 100-200 m at 10-20% incline; RPE 8-10; Recover fully (1-2 minutes)

Hill Workouts for Distance Runners including rolling hills, short hill repeats, long hill repeats, and long runs with hills, which workouts to do to run faster and get stronger!

Long Hill Repeats

Long hill repeats cater to those running longer distances and help with aerobic energy and muscle strength and endurance. Your pace here will be closer to your goal race pace, and the incline will be less than that used for the short hill repeats; think a long, sustained hill where you can get as close to your normal pace as possible for 90 seconds to 3 minutes (or even longer). Think about a 7 on the RPE scale, unlike the 8-10 of short hill repeats. Marathoners, this is your bread and butter. These are the hills that will get your glutes strong! This is also great for those prepping for hilly races. COUGH Twin Cities 

Long Hill Repeat example: 3 minutes or .5 mi at 5-8 % incline at 5-10k pace; RPE 6-8; Recover fully (or run to the base)

Long Runs with Hills

Speaking of hilly races, if you have one on the horizon, figure out a way to incorporate hills into your long runs. Having hills throughout your long runs is not only great for you physically but will also help you mentally because you will develop the mental strength of knowing that you can push through hills when you are running on tired legs. Don’t fear the hill at the end of your long run, embrace it! Try taking the hills at race pace, attacking them like a sprint, or progressively getting faster with each hill. Not feeling any of those? Just incorporating the hills into your long run will still do wonders for you. Just try not to pull back too much while you run them!

Long Hilly Run example: 12 miles with 4 x .5 hills incorporated within; no recovery after hills (beyond the decline) RPE 7


Some more great resources on hills and hill workouts: Mastering Hill Workouts and Three Workouts for Better Hill Running

Which Hill Workout for which Race Distance?

Ok, so you have all of these workouts… now what to do with them? 

Well, I think most of you should be able to guess that marathoners are going to benefit the most from developing their aerobic and muscular endurance, as they will be pulling by and large from their aerobic energy sources and will also need to have muscles that can go the distance. Sprinters, on the other hand, will need to be able to tap into efficient anaerobic energy sources and be able to respond with power and speed. Thus, longer repeats for the longer distance races.

HOWEVER. That is not to say that sprinters shouldn’t incorporate longer hills and marathoners shouldn’t try out hard, short sprints straight uphill from time to time. Doing so will increase both mental fortitude as well as prepare the runner for any situation they might encounter during a race. That said, make sure that the workout you are about to do is not one that will get you injured because you are unprepared for it, start small, and build up. That goes for everyone! If you have never run hills before, do not start with 8 x .5 mi repeats. Unless you are walking them. 

Also, remember to do a proper warm up before and a proper cool down after!

Now, get out there and have some fun! Next week, I will cover how to run these workouts if you live in a flat area.

Coach @suzlyfe takes the guesswork out of which hill workout to do! #runchat #running #fitfluential Click To Tweet

What is your favorite hill workout to do? 

And now it is time to link up with Rachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches Corner! I am also linking up with Patty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday, and Ilka and Angela for Food and Fitness Sunday.

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  • Reply Angela @ Happy Fit Mama

    Great workouts! I avoided hills like the plague for years. But now I run towards them AND up and over. They really do make a HUGE difference in your running!

    July 20, 2016 at 5:18 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      They definitely do! Glad you have seen the “light” lol

      July 21, 2016 at 2:31 pm
  • Reply Michelle

    Amazing resource! Luckily I’m not traing for any specific race, and my course has all of this so I have all the bases covered!

    July 20, 2016 at 5:19 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That is awesome! You are so lucky..

      July 21, 2016 at 2:31 pm
  • Reply Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    I usually do short hill repeats but also do long runs with rolling hills. I will need to try some of these other options once I’m fully back to running!

    July 20, 2016 at 5:47 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Take your time and don’t push it too fast!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:30 pm
  • Reply Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious

    My favorite hill workout is on the spin bike. Does that count?

    July 20, 2016 at 6:08 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      For your situation, of course.

      July 21, 2016 at 2:30 pm
  • Reply lindsay Cotter

    dare I say it? this makes me miss running and hills. PINNING!

    July 20, 2016 at 6:11 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Awwwwww. They miss you!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:29 pm
  • Reply Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner

    I have not done hill workouts (intentionally) in a while thanks for the reminder.Pinning for later. Thanks for the link up today

    July 20, 2016 at 6:39 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you for linking up!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:29 pm
  • Reply Annmarie

    Awesome workouts, Suz! Love all the different options!

    July 20, 2016 at 6:42 am
  • Reply jill conyers

    It took me forever but last year I finally learned to embrace the hill instead of seeing it as a necessary evil to be avoided whenever possible.

    July 20, 2016 at 6:48 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Haha, like cross training, which now is such a part of my balanced training!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:27 pm
  • Reply Emily @ My Healthyish Life

    I can’t decide my favorite hill workout…I *think* I’d like the long run with hills. Not that I’ve done any of those this session yet or that I have many hills to run haha. But I can imagine it just adds some excitement to an otherwise very steady, flat horizon.

    July 20, 2016 at 7:15 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      We are going to work on that, my lady

      July 21, 2016 at 2:26 pm
  • Reply Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

    Ohh yay, hills! Ugh. In all seriousness, I really need to embrace this. I know. I kind of liked the sled pulling that my coach had me do last winter to get ready for Big Sur. No fuss, no muss, no hills. Clearly, I’m not a real runner.

    July 20, 2016 at 7:19 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      If you aren’t a runner, I am definitely not one either!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:26 pm
  • Reply Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

    Great post and workouts! You know I love hills. Right now I’m doing shorter repeats for some neuromuscular training, but I can’t wait to add in longer hill repeats and hilly long runs into marathon training!

    July 20, 2016 at 7:25 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I’m a little scared of them because of my SIJ, but I’m going to work on getting back into them!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:25 pm
  • Reply Gretchen

    Living in Pittsburgh, pretty much every run is a hill workout 🙂 Thanks for all the tips and ideas!

    July 20, 2016 at 7:32 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Damn straight on that 😀

      July 21, 2016 at 2:24 pm
  • Reply EB @ Running on E

    Great post on one of my favorite topics! Love how you broke it down. I kind of love all hills because I know how beneficial they are (and I really can’t avoid them).

    July 20, 2016 at 7:32 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I miss running in ATL for just that reason!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:23 pm
  • Reply Bri

    Short hill repeats are on my plan for tomorrow! Yay/ not. Haha!

    July 20, 2016 at 7:38 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      loooool The struggle is so real

      July 21, 2016 at 2:22 pm
  • Reply Jen @ Pretty Little Grub

    Great post. I tend to do a variety of hills within a run but when I plan a specific hill workout it’s usually long repeated hills.

    July 20, 2016 at 8:18 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Honestly, that is my go to as well!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:21 pm
  • Reply Sarah @pickyrunner

    Hill repeats are something I’d never do on my own but thanks to NP I do them weekly.It’s great mental and physical training and they’re a necessary evil in any training program. But if I’m not running with NP, I try to avoid hills at all costs ahah

    July 20, 2016 at 8:29 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Having people like NP behind you (literally) will make anyone run hills!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:21 pm
  • Reply Janelle @ Run With No Regrets

    This is so needed right now! I have to embrace all the hills in my hood – this is such a great guide!

    July 20, 2016 at 8:36 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I hope that it helps!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:20 pm
  • Reply shawna

    The only hills I do are the ones on my running routes by my parents’ house upstate, which are unavoidable, and I actually am used to them by now and do believe they’ve helped me!

    July 20, 2016 at 8:43 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      They definitely have!~

      July 21, 2016 at 2:20 pm
  • Reply Suzy

    I’m not intentional about running hills specifically, just because we have majorly huge steep ones around here (we live on Sumas Mountain). I don’t mind climbing them but I worry a lot about my SI joint going down.

    July 20, 2016 at 9:11 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I hear you there. Form is going to be your savior in that case.

      July 21, 2016 at 2:19 pm
  • Reply Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy

    Great post, and I needed something like this last year. I did my first ever 10km race and it was pretty much all hills. I was NOT happy.

    July 20, 2016 at 9:29 am
  • Reply Nicole @ Fitful Focus

    I’ve got my Coach Suz hill workout on tap for tomorrow 🙂

    July 20, 2016 at 9:38 am
  • Reply Michelle

    I have a few hilly spots in my hood that I use for my hill repeats! They definitely help!

    July 20, 2016 at 10:06 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Oh, to be in the burbs ;D

      July 21, 2016 at 2:17 pm
  • Reply Rachel

    Love me some HILLZ!!!!

    July 20, 2016 at 1:44 pm
  • Reply Katie @ Daily Cup of Kate

    I love hill workouts! haha and yes… Twin Cities is definitely hilly!!

    July 20, 2016 at 3:05 pm
  • Reply Eric

    I do 7% hills Race Pace on 2 minute intervals with a 2 minute break in between (3-4 sets). This kicked my butt into gear for Boston and really helped develop my quads/glutes. I saw a BIG difference in my muscles after a month or two of these. I definitely notice on my races right now that I handle hills much better than most runners, and I credit this for my improvements. Now I need to work on downhill training somehow…

    July 20, 2016 at 3:37 pm
    • Reply Eric

      Funny story on that though: Because of my hill training I had to say goodbye to “slim fit” pants. My thigh muscles and calves no longer fit in the tapered design.

      July 21, 2016 at 7:44 am
      • Reply suzlyfe

        That is when you know you are winning!

        July 21, 2016 at 2:12 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Quad development and walking backwards 😀

      July 21, 2016 at 2:16 pm
  • Reply Ange // Cowgirl Runs

    I WISH I had rolling hills on which to run on! I currently have to seek out hills, which means I don’t run hills as much as I know I should.

    July 20, 2016 at 3:40 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I hear you there, you know I do!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:14 pm
  • Reply Alaina @ The Simple Peach

    As you know we don’t have a shortage of hills here. I will throw in some short/fast hill repeats into a run every now and then, but my favorite hill is steep (idk the grade?) and long (.5 mile). Lately I’ve been practicing reverse hill repeats on it in preparation for my goal downhill race later this summer. It’s all fun!

    July 20, 2016 at 3:49 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      GREAT! That is so awesome that you are doing that, Alaina!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:14 pm
  • Reply Debbie

    Aside from a mile long hill that is the beginning of most of my runs, I have a special, fairly short hill I run when I really want to get serious. Which doesn’t happen too often!

    July 20, 2016 at 6:16 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Lol, I totally hear you there!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:13 pm
  • Reply Kimberly Hatting

    I am one of the weirdos who doesn’t mind hills. I have a “small” block across the street I routinely do laps around, and often times do sprints on it. Why not? 😉

    July 20, 2016 at 10:31 pm
  • Reply

    My favourite hill workout is running up and down the mountains in Scotland. So I suppose that counts doesn’t it? 🙂

    July 21, 2016 at 2:20 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That DEFINITELY counts. And I want in some time!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:12 pm
  • Reply Ilka

    Great post Susie – I really need to pay attention to more details when it comes to my hill training! If I find that hill in Florida! 🙂 🙂
    Thanks for hosting the link-up! I’m a day late, but better late than never! Have a great rest of the week!

    July 21, 2016 at 1:38 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Haha, never too late! We are so happy to have you! And tune in next week–I’ll be covering hills when you live in flat places!

      July 21, 2016 at 2:11 pm
      • Reply Ilka

        That sounds great! 🙂

        July 24, 2016 at 11:01 pm
  • Reply Kristy from Southern In Law

    Ohhhhh hills! We live in a ridiculously hilly area so I’ve had to learn to tolerate them if I want to run outside… that or I have to run in a totally weird pattern to avoid them hahaha.

    July 22, 2016 at 12:47 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You should see if you can write out thing with them!

      July 24, 2016 at 5:51 am
  • Reply Hannah

    Today I learned that I need more rolling(ish) hills…I got used to trail races that just go up up up then down down down, then today’s race had multiple ups and downs that really killed my legs.

    July 23, 2016 at 7:31 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Rolling hills are at least a bit more fun, IMHO. But yeah, they can rock you!

      July 24, 2016 at 6:16 am
  • Reply Eb Gargano

    Thank you for this. I am a newbie runner and hills always kill me!! I know I need to do some hill training but not really what to do, so this has given me some really great ideas!

    July 25, 2016 at 6:49 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Best of luck Eb! Any other questions that I can answer?

      July 28, 2016 at 1:49 pm

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