Running: What is Hill Training?

Sunday Runday and while the weekends are reserved for distance training, the springtime has rebooted our training schedule and put us back into proper-training-mode. This includes regular and progressively longer hill training runs.

If you happen to live beside a hill where runners train maybe you’ve seen folks like my running friends and I, climbing and descending on repeat, week after week. Perhaps you wondered what the heck why were were torturing ourselves so…

So, what is hill training?

Running is running, and the longer you run the further you’ll be able to go… eventually.

More serious, focused run training tends to pry apart the various aspects of running and portion them into dedicated types of runs meant to isolate enhancing various pieces of the running puzzle: speed, endurance, longevity, pace, and strength.

Hill repeats are meant to build strength. They add a very specific element of resistance to a run, building stronger muscles and generally agreed upon to improve overall performance.

Our hill is roughly a 7% – 9% grade leading into and out of a creek valley near our meeting point. Our Wednesday runs turn into hill training sessions in the spring and early summer, building back up that foundational strength that usually dwindled over the winter months.

There are many different approaches to training on hills as there are runners, but here’s what my crew does:

A brief warm-up run leads us down to our start point.

A single repeat includes a steady climbing run up to a designated point roughly four hundred meters from the base of the hill. As we crest this distance, we do a short recovery walk, turn around, and jog at an easy pace back down to the bottom of the hill.

Starting in early March we begin with three repeats, building by one each week until we reach a maximum. That maximum count depends on the type of race for which we are training, but usually somewhere between twelve and fifteen repeats total by the time we enter June.

(After June we switch to speed training mixed with “hilly runs” which are things I’ll get around to writing about then!)

It’s a tough session. It’s a tough spring. But it’s been working for us for a long time.

Hill training is a slower, deliberate isolation of run training meant to build strength, train muscles in ways not targeted on flat trails, and make runners better at their sport. We grumble a lot, but the spring pain has payoffs for a great summer.