Hill training offers a wide variety of benefits

Anybody who has competed in cross country know the challenges of running uphill. After cruising along at a fast clip on flat ground, suddenly you begin to climb, and you instantly slow down, your muscles begin to burn, and with each subsequent step it become harder to breathe. If you are in pursuit of a fast time, hills are undoubtedly your enemy. But there is also a brighter side to hill running. Hill training offers a wide variety of benefits that are difficult to achieve by running on flat ground, and these benefits will not only help runners, but any athlete looking to increase their overall fitness.

So what exactly does hill running do for you?

First and foremost, hill running allows you to train at high intensity levels with a lower risk of injury. This is because you can push your body to its limits, while running at only a fraction of the velocity you would be running at on flat ground. This reduces the strain on your body every time your feet hit the ground, and ultimately reduces your risk of injury. Hill running also extensively works a number of muscles that are used minimally on flat ground, including your gluteus, calves, hip flexors, and lower back, as well as various stabilizer muscles in your legs and feet. By working these muscles groups, you further reduce your risk of injury, while simultaneously improving your running form.

Here are three recommended hill workouts for people with different fitness goals:

1. The Speed Builder: This workout is ideal for anybody looking to increase their raw speed. It offers all of the benefits of sprint training, with a reduced risk of injury.

First, you should warmup by jogging on flat ground for 10 minutes. Then find a relatively steep hill with roughly a 25% grade. You will be doing 5 sets of sprints. Jog up to the base of the hill, then sprint uphill for 10 to 15 seconds. Walk or jog back to your starting point and once you have fully caught your breath, begin the next repeat.

For your first set, focus on lifting your knees as high as possible. For your second set, focus on running with short and rapid steps. For your third set, bound up the hill with long strides. For your two final sets, focus on combining the elements overemphasized in your first three sets, and aim to get up the hill as fast as possible.

Finish with a jog for your cool down.

2. The Anaerobic Enhancer: This workout is ideal for anybody looking to increase their overall leg strength and anaerobic fitness. This is perfect for anybody that participates in sports which combine some aspects of speed and endurance such as soccer or basketball.

Find a relatively long hill with roughly a 10% grade. After warming up, stride up the hill at 90% effort for 60 seconds. Focus on lifting your knees and maintaining efficient running form. You should be out of breath at the top of the hill, but not so much that you can’t immediately start jogging back down. Once you get back to your starting point, repeat this 4 times. After you are done, finish the workout with a jog to cool down.

3. The Form Enhancer: This workout is for distance runners looking to improve their running form and reduce their risk of injury. It can be done in the middle or at the end of a run.

Find a gentle hill with roughly a 5% grade. Stride up the hill for 15 seconds at the pace you would race a mile. Focus on lifting your knees and landing softly. Jog back down to the bottom of the hill and repeat this 10 times. The focus of this workout is form, and you should not be excessively tired as it ends. After you finish, either continue with your run or finish with a short cool down.

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