Hill Training: Why, How and 3 Hill Workouts for Runners

Wanting to improve your running? Hill workouts are the ultimate training exercise for runners of all kinds. Hill running increase speed, strength and endurance in one simple workout. These 3 outdoor hill workouts for runners are the secret weapon you’ve been searching for to improve your running. These running workouts are game changing! #hillworkouts #runningworkouts #hillrunning

When most runners think of speed workouts, they think of intervals, tempo runs and track workouts. But what’s missing from this list is potentially one of our greatest resources for increasing speed: hill workouts.

Hill training is one of the most beneficial workouts for runners of all ability levels. Whether you are trying to increase your endurance, speed, or just stay injury free – completing hill repeats on a regular basis will help you get there.

Related: 5 Secrets to Increase Your Running Endurance Quickly

Many runners steer clear of hill workouts because they don’t think they can find a decent sized hill to use for repeats, are afraid to look crazy running up and down the hill, or just don’t think they will benefit from any type of hill workout.

These runners don’t know what they’re missing.

Why include regular hill training?

Running hills on a regular basis helps increase speed, strength, and improves endurance during marathon training. Running the incline and decline forces our legs to utilize different muscles than on flat ground.

Our glutes, a muscle that is left inactive and under-used in too many runners, are strengthened as we run an incline. As we descend the hill, our hamstrings, calves and quadriceps are activated in different ways. We gain power and strength from the simple act of running at an incline, whether we put any extra effort into it or now.

Related: Resistance Band Hip & Glute Workout for Runners

Hill training is a great type of workout to implement into your training plan, and adds to the variety of speed workouts to choose from. Mixing up your workouts each week helps you avoid injury and gain maximum benefits as your body is unable to adapt to repetitive workouts.

Wanting to improve your running? Hill workouts are the ultimate training exercise for runners of all kinds. Hill running increase speed, strength and endurance in one simple workout. These 3 outdoor hill workouts for runners are the secret weapon you’ve been searching for to improve your running. These running workouts are game changing! #hillworkouts #runningworkouts #hillrunning

So how do you actually do hill repeats?

Hill workouts are simpler than most runners think.

Step 1: Find a hill of any length and incline (at least 0.1 miles long). It should be a hill with little traffic, so you can easily run repeats up and down without having to stop.

Step 2: Plan a starting point about a mile or so away from the hill so you can run an easy warm up before starting your hill repeats.

Step 3: Run from your starting point to the hill at an easy effort. When you get to the hill, begin your hill workout intervals.

Step 4: After the last hill repeat, run back to your starting point as a cool down.

While the concept of hill training is quite simple, mastering hill workouts is a challenging skill. Varying the incline and length of hill for each workout makes runners stronger and faster on flat ground.

Hill repeats are easy to incorporate into mid-week runs, as they are the ultimate outdoor workout. No need to travel to a track or find a treadmill at the gym. Any sort of incline will do – whether the hill is only 0.1 miles in length or a full mile long.

The hill workout ideas below are a great starting place for any runner.

These three workouts can easily be adapted depending on the length and intensity of workout you are looking for. Throw these hill intervals into a mid-week run or long run for extra challenge.

Wanting more distance? Increase the number of hill repeats, or add distance to your warm up and cool down. Wanting more intensity? Increase the number of hard effort repetitions.

These hill workouts for runners are speed work in disguise. Increase your speed without running intervals at the track, and all the while build power and muscle to keep you going on those long runs.

Wanting to improve your running? Hill workouts are the ultimate training exercise for runners of all kinds. Hill running increase speed, strength and endurance in one simple workout. These 3 outdoor hill workouts for runners are the secret weapon you’ve been searching for to improve your running. These running workouts are game changing! #hillworkouts #runningworkouts #hillrunning

Since running up and down hills requires different effort depending on the type of hill, each hill repeat should be judged based on effort rather than pace.

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 Outdoor Hill Workouts for Runners

Long Hill Intervals – at least 0.25 miles in length

*best when you have a longer hill with a gradual incline

  • Warm Up: 1-2 miles on flat ground – easy effort
  • Interval #1: Hill ascent – easy effort
    • Recovery: Hill descent – easy effort
  • Interval #2: Hill ascent – medium effort
    • Recovery: Hill descent – easy effort
  • Interval #3: Hill ascent – medium-hard effort
    • Recovery: Hill descent – easy effort
  • Interval #4: Hill ascent – hard effort
    • Recovery: Hill descent – easy effort
  • Interval #5: Hill ascent – hardest effort
    • Recovery: Hill descent – easy effort
  • Cool Down: 1-2 miles on flat ground – easy effort

Short Hill Intervals – between 0.1 and 0.25 miles in length

*best when you have a shorter hill with a significant incline

  • Warm Up: 1-2 miles on flat ground – easy effort
  • Interval #1: Hill ascent – easy effort
    • Recovery: Hill descent – easy effort
  • Interval #2: Hill ascent – medium effort
    • Recovery: Hill descent – easy effort
  • Interval #3: Hill ascent – medium-hard effort
    • Recovery: Hill descent – easy effort
  • Interval #4: Hill ascent – hard effort
    • Recovery: Hill descent – easy effort
  • Interval #5: Hill ascent – hardest effort
    • Recovery: Hill descent – easy effort
  • Interval #6: Hill ascent – hardest effort
    • Recovery: Hill descent – easy effort
  • Interval #7: Hill ascent – hard effort
    • Recovery:Hill descent – easy effort
  • Interval #8: Hill ascent – medium-hard effort
    • Recovery: Hill descent – easy effort
  • Interval #9: Hill ascent – medium effort
    • Recovery: Hill descent – easy effort
  • Interval #10: Hill ascent- easy effort
    • Recovery: Hill descent – easy effort
  • Cool Down: 1-2 miles on flat ground – easy effort

Hill Descents – any length and grade

*can be completed on any type of hill (adding more intervals for shorter hills)

Hill descents are a great practice for runners. While they may not tax the cardiovascular system in the same way as running up an incline, descending a hill forces our quads to stay strong to prevent pounding on our knees. Being aware of your form during hill descents is key. Focus on staying upright and not leaning forward, as well as pumping your arms for power when descending.

  • Warm Up: 1-2 miles on flat ground – easy effort
    • Hill ascent – easy effort
  • Interval #1: Hill descent – easy effort
    • Hill ascent- easy effort
  • Interval #2: Hill descent – medium effort
    • Hill ascent – easy effort
  • Interval #3: Hill descent – medium-hard effort
    • Hill ascent- easy effort
  • Interval #4: Hill descent – hard effort
    • Hill ascent – easy effort
  • Interval #5: Hill descent – hardest effort
  • Cool Down: 1-2 miles on flat ground – easy effort

This workout can vary depending on whether you are on a short, steep hill, or one with a long, gradual incline. Stay upright and focused as you descend the hill.

As you begin to include hill running in your training plan, you will notice that flat ground running begins to feel easier and easier. The muscle and power you gain from running inclines translates to the rest of your runs and helps you run even faster with less effort.

These hill workouts will pay off in your long runs, speed workouts and overall fitness. You won’t regret adding some speed work in disguise!

More running workouts:

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