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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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