Ever feel intimidated by running hills? Avoid them all together? Feel defeated when you find yourself tapped out half way up? We’ve got solutions! Hill repeats to the rescue!
Running hills doesn’t have to be your nemesis and can actually be the boost you have been looking for to increase your speed, endurance and prevent injuries. Hills can increase your efficiency and running economy by building better knee lift, arm drive, and leg strength. The hill serves as a gravity-enhancer! The idea is to build resistance so the flat stuff seems WAY easier.
Here are our top tips for effectively integrating a hill repeat workout into your weekly mileage!
STEP ONE: Which distance repeat are you looking for?
There are two kinds of hill repeats.
- Shorter repeats that are 50 to 300 meters (anaerobic workout)/
- Longer repeats that are 400 meters up to 1 mile (aerobic and strength building).
- For the purpose of this description, we are going to focus on shorter stuff. Longer hill repeats usually don’t need much grade at all (about 3-5% grade) for the record.
STEP TWO: Finding a hill!
Yes, you actually have to find a hill to master hills! For those of you looking for a hill hack that doesn’t involve hills, turn back now! Fortunately, they don’t have to look like a runaway truck ramp to be effective. We’re talking a nice gradual hill in a park or that neighborhood road that doesn’t seem like much when you are driving but kinda burns when you find yourself on two feet.
- Distance: 50 meters to about 200 meters, up to you on the distance. Work with what you have!
- Incline: I usually shoot for 5-10% grade. If you have a steeper one that’s great, but not always better. Remember that the main goal is to just increase resistance through the hill and forcing a higher knee lift. Making gravity feel a bit more… heavy. 🙂
STEP THREE: Doing the workout
Hill repeats are exactly what they sound like: Repeated hills. How many? I usually shoot for 4-5 for a beginner and about 8-12 for an experience runner or walker with plenty of base mileage under them. Remember, I’m referring to shorter hill repeats. If you are doing half mile or 1 mile repeats, 3-4 would be a lot!
- Warm up: Do a 10-15 minute warm up at a leisurely pace. After you warm up, you might consider some light plyometrics (think some high knees, grapevine, butt kickers, etc…) but you don’t have to do those if you are pretty warmed up.
- Workout: So you found the hill. Figure out your starting and stopping points and look out for traffic if you are on a road/sidewalk. For the purpose of this workout, we are going to say you are doing 5.
- 5 x hill with 1 1/2 to 2 minutes rest between each.
- The goal is to do the last one at the same speed or FASTER than your first one, so you’ll have to ease into them, especially the first one.
- These are like modified sprints. If you feel like you aren’t going as fast as you’d like, that’s probably because you’re on a HILL! Haha! It will feel cumbersome and that’s the point.
- Focus on knee drive, keeping your chin up and not buried into your chest, and driving your arms straight and not across your body.
- Complete one and then walk or very slowly slog/jog down to do the next one. You should give yourself a full 1:30 min. to 2 min rest between each one to help your body recover…a little.
- Repeat with the next 4. If your hamstring starts barking at you like it feels like it’s going to get pulled, STOP and don’t complete the workout. Just wait until the next week to do it again. Give your body a little grace on this first workout.
- COOL DOWN: Run/walk/jog about 10-15 minutes for a really proper cool down.
That’s it! Hill repeats are simple but really do work. Here are some final important reminders before you head out the door to do your first workout!
- Don’t do these more than once a week. Generally, you only want to do one speed/interval workout a week.
- Don’t do these if you are just starting your workout plans and haven’t run or walked for a while. Give yourself about 4-5 weeks of just regular ol’ easy running or walking to build some base first.
- If you want to increase the amount or the distance of the hill, you certainly can, but wait until after you’ve done 3 or 4 weeks of them.
- Bring a friend. Everything is way more fun with friends!
- Call our shops if you have questions! We aren’t just a website like most of those blogs out there. We have actual stores where you can talk to people. What a concept!
If you ever have any questions about hills, workouts, training, gear, or anything running or walking related at all, remember that you can always CALL or email our stores to chat with our super knowledgeable and friendly staff (even if you aren’t in the Pacific Northwest!). If you’re local, pay us a visit! We love to help! Happy trails!