Hill repeats can be grueling, but make a huge difference in your ability to run well at both road races and on trails. My MRTT friends and I recently ran the ZOOMA Half Marathon in Annapolis before we added hill repeats to our summer training schedule and we paid for it dearly.
Last summer we went into our fall races in beast mode because we spent twelve weeks running hills every Tuesday. Hill repeats aren’t for the faint of heart, but can be adjusted for anyone. Even as a running coach, I’ll be the first to admit that the best part of hill repeats is the drive home. You may dread running them, you may not feel so great while running them, but you will feel like a badass when you’re finished!
If you live in an area that’s hilly it will be a lot easier to work repeats into your training. If not, you might need to find a hill and drive to that location for your repeats. When running hill repeats, my friends and I meet at a local restaurant at 5:30 AM, run for about a mile to warm-up, and then hit the huge hill next to the restaurant over and over again.
Last summer, we started out our first week running six to eight repeats, and then worked our way up to thirteen by the end of the summer. Our goal was to simply run uphill at a challenging and sustained pace, turn at the top, and run back down at a comfortable recovery pace. Keep in mind that your uphill pace will need to be adjusted to slightly slower for longer hills and hills with a steeper grade.
The downhill portion of each repeat is a great opportunity to practice gliding (relaxing your running muscles and allowing gravity to do the work for you). Once at the bottom of the hill, turn around and run it again! We kept our water bottles at our turnaround point at the bottom of the hill and stopped as needed for a quick drink.
- Run uphill at a challenging and sustained pace
- Turn at the top
- Run back down at a comfortable recovery pace
- Practice gliding on downhill portion
- Turn and run your next repeat
Your running form will need to be adjusted slightly when running hills. You’ll want to shorten your stride slightly and engage your core. Keep your head up and gaze ahead, not at your feet. For me, not looking straight down at my feet when running hills in one of my biggest challenges. I try my best to look slightly ahead, and it’s a constant correction I have to make.
And finally, choose your hill according to what your goals are. Shorter hills build speed, while longer hills build strength. For my next round of hill repeats starting in two weeks, I’m going to double the length of my repeats during the early phase of my training cycle. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.
- Do you incorporate hill repeats into your training?
- Is it hilly where you train?
- What’s the hilliest race you’ve run? ~ Mine was probably my first leg of last fall’s Ragnar Relay DC. Running up to Hurricane Point during the Big Sur Marathon was a long climb, but the rest of the race wasn’t too bad.