Why should I run hills?

Even if an athlete is racing on flat terrain, hill work is still important. Running hills is like strength training without the gym. There is an increased need for muscle recruitment when the body is attempting to move up an incline. The runner is moving their mass against gravity, forward and up. The increased effort simulates weight training as there is a need to provide more force to move the object up a hill. Think about rolling a bowling ball up a ramp, versus on flat ground. It takes more force to push the weighted ball up an incline, and that is exactly what happens when an athlete runs up a hill. The body is forced to fire more muscles faster to propel the runner up the hill.

This is a good thing, as the body learns to recruit more muscle fibers more efficiently to move the athlete up the hill, resulting in a positive training effect. Integrate hill work into a sound training plan at least once per week. The intervals can range from 30 seconds to three minutes in length with a one to one recovery, meaning if the interval is one minute in length, take one minute jogging recovery down the hill to start again. Be careful on the recovery when running down hill, as downhill running puts a tremendous amount of stress on the joints in the body.

Pick landmarks along the hill and see if you can run as far, if not father, than the previous effort in the same amount of time. Repeat the effort until the athlete is sufficiently fatigued to reach overload. Five intervals of 15-45 seconds is a good starting point. Increase the number of intervals or the duration of the interval on subsequent weeks following the 10% rule.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.