Running Hill Workouts

It should be no secret based on my training that I am not a super huge fan of lengthy speed workouts. I am comfortable with my slow pace and would rather impress others by running farther than faster (plus that goal is a little more attainable;).

When I’m training for a half marathon or shorter distance race, I usually try to force myself to incorporate some sort of speed work once a week. My speed work usually consists of short intervals, like my favorite¬†treadmill tempo workout.¬†I am all about efficiency, and love to plan workouts where I can get a lot out of something that takes the least amount of time.

While my treadmill workout has worked for me personally to achieve new PRs, I get bored of doing the same thing every single week for my speed workout. Having at least two go-to speed work ideas is something that helps motivate me to get out there because I’m able to choose whichever one feels the most manageable and realistic that week.

Another workout that I love to incorporate to increase my speed and strength is a hill workout. Hill workouts are incredibly efficient, and do wonders to increase your strength, which in turn increases your speed. Hills are a great way to increase glute and hamstring strength, increase your overall power, involve your arms, increase your joint mobility, provide a more intense cardiovascular workout, etc.

Running-Hill-Workouts

I used to shy away from hill workouts because I thought that I didn’t have a big enough hill near me that I could use to complete them, until I realized that any sort of incline is sufficient because there are so many variations of hill workouts! All you need is an incline of some capacity, and you can run up and down it for miles.

For the hill workouts I usually run, I try to get in about a half mile or mile warm up on flat ground first, and then complete all of my intervals on the hill. This means that for a shorter hill I am running up and down the hill over and over, but it works just as efficiently (even though you may look crazy to others;). Afterwards I try to run a half mile/mile cool down back to my house or car as well!

Hill Workouts Ideas for Speed

I wanted to share my 3 favorite hill workouts – I like to judge each interval by effort rather than pace, since it’s not always possible to run your normal pace when running up a hill.

Easy effort = long run pace; can easily have a conversation, feel like you could run for days

Medium effort = half marathon or short run pace; can still have a conversation but need to take breaks after talking for a while

Medium-hard effort = 10k pace; cannot have a full conversation but able to talk in short sentences

Hard effort = 5k pace; cannot talk for a full sentence, only single words

Hardest effort = sprinting; too hard to lose focus, cannot talk

 

3 Hill Workout Variations

Long Hill Intervals

*best for when you have a longer hill with only a gradual incline – at least .25 miles in length

  • .5 mile or 1 mile warm up on flat ground @ easy effort
  • run up the hill @ medium effort
  • run down hill @ easy effort
  • run up the hill @ medium-hard effort
  • run down hill @ easy effort
  • run up the hill @ hard effort
  • run down the hill @ easy effort
  • run up the hill @ hardest effort
  • run down the hill @ easy effort
  • .5 mile or 1 mile recovery jog back to house or car @ easy effort

This workout usually gets me about 4-6 miles in distance depending on the length of the hill. Most hills that I run for this workout are between a quarter and half mile in length.

Short Hill Intervals

*best for when you have a shorter hill with a significant incline, between .1 and .25 miles in length

  • .5 mile or 1 mile warm up on flat ground @ easy effort
  • run up the hill @ easy effort
  • run down the hill @ easy effort
  • run up the hill @ medium effort
  • run down the hill @ easy effort
  • run up the hill @ medium-hard effort
  • run down the hill @ easy effort
  • run up the hill @ hard effort
  • run down the hill @ easy effort
  • run up the hill @ hardest effort
  • run down the hill @ easy effort
  • run up the hill @ hard effort
  • run down the hill @ easy effort
  • run up the hill @ medium-hard effort
  • run down the hill @ easy effort
  • run up the hill @ medium effort
  • run down the hill @ easy effort
  • run up the hill @ easy effort
  • run down the hill @ easy effort
  • .5 mile or 1 mile recovery jog back to house or car @ easy effort

This workout usually gets me about 4 or 5 miles in total distance, depending on the length of the incline. I usually shoot for an incline of about 200 m or .1 mile and really give it my all on those ascents. If I need more distance I will just add a few more intervals before the cool down!

Hill Descents

*can be completed on any type of hill; I focus on staying upright and not leaning forward, as well as pumping my arms when descending

  • .5 mile or 1 mile warm up on flat ground @ easy effort
  • run up the hill @ easy effort
  • run down the hill @ medium effort
  • run up hill @ easy effort
  • run down the hill @ medium-hard effort
  • run up hill @ easy effort
  • run down the hill @ hard effort
  • run up the hill @ easy effort
  • run down the hill @ hardest effort
  • run up the hill @ easy effort
  • run down the hill @ easy effort
  • .5 mile or 1 mile recovery jog back to house or car @ easy effort

This workout can vary depending on whether you are on a short, steep hill, or one with a long, gradual incline. It is basically just the opposite of the previous two; you are putting your effort into descending the hill rather than ascending.

Ever since I started adding hill work to my training, I’ve noticed just how many hills are actually around me. Even the most gradual incline can be used for hill intervals if you incorporate it into your run the right way. We have so many hills in West Michigan, and I’ve definitely noticed that whenever my regular running routes include hills, race day feels a million times easier.

Happy speed running!

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