Monday, April 6, 2009

Runner's World Hill Workouts

1. Short Hills. My high school coach affectionately called these "meat grinders." They are relatively short hills of 100 to 200 meters that you repeat multiple times. They can be tacked on the end of an easy run or used as a complete workout. Because these hills are short, you should run them at a fast pace -- almost an all-out effort -- with a walk or slow jog back down the hill as a recovery.

While you can run these types of hill repeats on asphalt, a grass or dirt hill is less stressful to your body. Short hills are important for anyone who wants to develop the explosive strength necessary to run a good 800 meters or finish strong in a mile or 5-K. A sample short hill workout: one to two sets of 10 hill repeats. Walk or jog slowly down the hill after each repeat, and do an additional 5 minutes of jogging between sets.

2. Hilly Power Run. It doesn't sound very technical (sorry), but this workout builds strength for a strong marathon or half-marathon. Pick a route that has rolling hills and "push" each hill. By push, I mean you should try not to slow down as you roll over each rise. But don't attack the incline as you do when running short hills.

I like to do this kind of run as part of a 10-mile workout. I pick a canyon road, then work each uphill, catching my breath as I cruise on the flat and downhill sections. This type of continuous hilly power run will be your best weapon against monsters such as Heartbreak Hill in Boston.

3. Hilly Long Run. This workout is similar to the Hilly Power Run, but longer and less intense. Run this at your long-run pace, but make sure you have some rolling hills in the last half of the run. When you hit the hills with fatigued legs, you'll be forced to work on your form. This workout will also build the strength and confidence necessary to race well late in a longer race, whether it has hills or not.

4. Long Hill Circuits. This is more of a traditional long-interval workout. The key is finding a grass or dirt circuit that has a number of uphills. The distance of the circuit can be as short as a half-mile or as long as 2 miles. Run the downhill sections at a semi-easy (75 percent) effort to avoid injury. Run the flat and uphill sections at 5-K race pace. Unless you're a Sherpa, do a total of 3- to 4-miles' worth of the circuit, with 3 to 5 minutes of jog recovery between each circuit.


  1. I miss hills. Haven't been running them enough. I used to love to go exploring in Los Altos Hills and just run up and up and up, especially when I could explore new roads and trails.

  2. one of my favorite memories of you was when we ran into you at rancho san antonio. we were running down the backside of the mountain and you were running up. i was so impressed by your stamina and strength.