Hills build strength. Period.
Need to know more? Hills add resistance, resistance makes the heart, lungs and muscles work harder, and regular bouts of hard work lead to stronger, more efficient runners.
A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications found that after 12 weeks of hill training (2x/week) the speed endurance of the athletes improved without increasing injury risk. Running uphill is less likely to cause overuse injuries than track repeats because there is less pounding. In other words, hill training offers similar rewards as speed work without as much risk.
Running uphill is also a good time to work on form because of the controlled pace. It ‘s easier to coordinate all the moving body parts when the pace is slower, while still needing to produce enough force to get up the hill. Some of the form cues we use with The Workout Group are: open chest, long spine, lean into hill, drive knees, push through glutes, and fast feet.
For these reasons, we have The Workout Group start every fall season doing 3-4 weeks of hill training before focusing on flatter, faster intervals. Ideally, most of these athletes have already spent 6-8 weeks during the summer building base miles and running (at conversation pace) in Sabino Canyon, through the foothills, and on the trails around Tucson. Once WOG training starts, we ask them to push the pace on the hills a bit more, while still focusing on form and cadence. After doing a cycle of hill training, these runners are better prepared for the higher intensity demands of interval/speed work. More on that next month!