I love hill training. It’s like track- an essential part of training that, if done consistently, will pay off and enable you to run strongly on race day. It helps with running on the flat, too, because is strengthens you, will improve your form and with hills in your legs flat running feels much easier.
In February I won the Flatline 10 race, a tortuous 10 laps up and down Swains Lane, one of the steepest hills in London, due to hill training. For most Run Dem Crew runners, the remaining big race of the year is the hilly MoRunning 10K in Greenwich Park. I’ve done well in this race in the past so wanted to share some tips. I’m not a trained running coach so do get professional advice before starting hill training.
Find a hill steep enough to provide you with at least 30 seconds of challenging running, and run up it. When climbing, maintain high cadence and good form- take steps as often as you do on the flat. It’s fine to slow down, you will make the time up on the descent. Listen to your breathing. Cadence is key.
Run back down- don’t walk- so you can work on the equally difficult, often overlooked, skill of descending. Again, focus on high cadence and good form, landing on the fore-foot or mid-foot and not your heels. Descending is harder on the body than climbing due to the impact. I have to concentrate to ensure I don’t heel-strike and to maintain my lean. Many people make the mistake of increasing stride length but this results in un-ergonomic body alignment on each foot strike, increasing the chance of injury and resulting in less efficient, slower running.
Start with 3 hill repeats and increase over time, like you would 800m repeats at track.
I find it boring running up and down the same hill repeatedly, so I head out towards Alexandra Palace, where there are numerous inclines, and spread the hills out over my run. Run solo or with friends. Do whatever motivates you and listen to your body. You should be pushing yourself hard and it will feel uncomfortable but don’t push through pain.
I focus on maintaining a pace that would be easy on the flat, but which is challenging when doing hills. I slow down on the way up, but make up for it on the way down and maintain the same pace afterwards. This teaches my body to recover quickly from climbing and descending.
Incorporate hill training in your schedule at least once a fortnight. In busy weeks, I recommend one long run, one threshold run and one of either track or hill training. When I can do more, the additional runs are at an easy pace, albeit with high cadence, as I’m working on improving my pace and running form. Avoid doing threshold, long runs and track/ hill sessions on back-to-back days- your body needs recovery after each one.
Good luck with hill training. You might grow to love it.