Hill training is challenging but it is a great way for runners to improve their strength and power. Hill sessions are often done at the start of a training block to build this strength and power and therefore lay a strong foundation for more intense workouts which will come later in a training block.
Benefits of hill training
Improved strength and power. In particular, short and fast hill sprints can be very effective in building these important qualities. Becoming a stronger runner can then reduce your risk of injury.
Helps to improve your running form and consequently improves your running economy.
Helps you to run faster and chase those PBs.
Increase your confidence for those hilly races.
Adds variety into your training
Less impact alternative to conventional Interval training
It's important to note, while hill training is valuable for most runners it's also not essential for some training goals given a lot of the training stimulus can be replicated through intervals on flat ground which also has the benefit of helping you to practice running at faster speeds.
How to start running hills
It is important not to be afraid to start small. We would recommend a gradual increase in the intensity and duration as your strength and endurance improves. It's also a good idea to vary your training by incorporating both uphill and downhill running. This can help to add variety and prevent boredom, as well as providing additional benefits to your overall fitness.
Before beginning hill training, it's crucial to warm up properly to reduce the risk of injury. This might involve some light jogging or dynamic stretches to get your muscles ready for the workout. After your hill training session, it's also important to cool down and stretch to help your muscles recover.
If you are training for an ultra event or hilly race, it is useful to do hill sessions more regularly within a training block.
If you don't live in a hilly area, using the treadmill can be a great option for hill training.
If possible, trail shoes are great for hill training outdoors. This will offer you the support and stability you need.
There are two different ways to run hills, you can either run your routes generally where there is more ups and downs to get more familiar running up within both easy and long runs, the other option is to do specific hill interval workouts
As with any interval, or run in general, it's important to pace yourself and not start off too fast, build into any hill repeat and try and maintain that intensity throughout.
Hill running technique
When running up hill, aim to shorten your stride; you should be emphasising short snappy steps (keeping a quick cadence). You should then lengthen your stride again as you reach the top and are on the flat/running down-hill again.
You should aim to maintain upright posture; keeping your neck and shoulders nice and relaxed.
Try to drive your hips forwards and stand tall as you run engaging your glutes, rather than hunching over and collapsing your posture
One thing to keep in mind when doing hill training is the incline of the hill you are using. A general rule of thumb is to use an incline of about 5-10% for your hill sprints . This will provide enough of a challenge to help you build strength and power, without being too steep to maintain good running form. Obviously out in the real work you can't measure how steep your favourite hill is, just relax and enjoy running up and down it as the sweat pours off your face!
Overall, hill training can be a very effective way to improve your running performance. Be sure to start small, vary your training and warm up and cool down properly to get the most out of your hill training sessions. Hill training can be a mental game as well as physical but as you can see, this is what will make you a stronger runner!