Earlier this week, it rained for two days straight. All night, all day, all the time, pouring rain. I’m all for running in the rain. In fact I kind of love it, in this completely satisfying way when I start a run and it starts full on pouring before I’m done and I return completely soaked. But it’s a different story when you have to leave the house in the pouring rain and you are soaked through within the first five minutes and it’s only 3 degrees out. Makes for a cold, wet 10 kilometers. On Tuesday when I faced the prospect of that happening again after Monday’s little wet running adventure, I decided to do a hill workout instead. It would be faster (i.e. less time cold and wet outside), but would ramp up the intensity to compensate for the lack of distance.
I have never minded hills when it comes to running, but it wasn’t until this past summer when I did a lot of trail running – and a lot in mountains! – that I really fell in love with them. Nothing beats the feeling you get after tackling a massive mountain and running all the way down and then all the way back up, pounding out 8 or 10 kilometers all on an incline. The feelings of satisfaction, pride and fatigue just make me giddy with excitement. And desperate for some good trails to run! But if you’re not feeling the same about hills, start by trying out some of these workouts below. They’ll get you used to hill running, be a good change-up from your usual running routine, and more than that, help to build up your running and improve your time!
1) Downhills – If you find yourself losing time on hills in races, it may be because you can’t get your pace back up fast enough once you climb the hill. This workout seeks to help you have a fast recovery after a hill so you don’t lose pace and instead can gain some time as you power up post-hill. To do this workout, go up the hill at your race pace or a little slower, maintaining pace as best you can – you are not sprinting the hill, but instead just running up it at your normal pace without slowing down. When you reach the top, turn around and sprint back down, getting your body used to working hard again even after climbing a hill. Use the uphill as your recovery and repeat or 10-15 sets.
2) Hill sprints – The classic hills workout: sprint up the hill as fast as you can and then a slow jog back down for a recovery. Repeat 10-15 times, followed by a cool down. I will often sandwich hill sprints in the middle of a run, completing 3 kilometers for a warm-up, doing a hill workout and then finishing with a 3 kilometer cool down.
3) Hill Pyramid – Complete 3 hill repeats, then rest for 1 minutes; 4 hills, rest for one minute; 5 hills, rest for one minute, up to 6, and then back down 5, 4, 3 etc. By the end you will have completed 30 hill repeats!
4) Hill 1:1 – This workout. doesn’t differentiate between up or down hill, but rather is a timed, continuous hill workout! Start the clock at the bottom of the hill and run a tempo pace for 30 seconds, followed by a recovery for 30 seconds, repeating continuously, 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for a total of 30 minutes. It doesn’t matter where you are on the hill at the 30 second mark, you will just continually run up and down the hill!
5) All the Hills – This is great when you are trail running, and really just requires one big huge hill – more likely a mountain – or a series of hills all together over several kilometers. And then you just start running! Break when you need to, walk if you have to, but struggle and push through and come out at the top smiling at how much you can achieve. The first time I did this, the boy and I were on trails on the east coast of Australia in a provincial park we found off the side of the highway. We drove the scenic route up to the top of the mountain, parked the car and then ran down to the bottom, before running back to the top again. I finished drenched in sweat and nearly in tears, but it was that first “aha” moment of trail running for me, and from then on, I came to crave the crazy runners high, and pain in your chest feeling you get from hard hill runs. We did it 2 or 3 times a week after that. Try it out – you may be impressed at how good you are!
The thing about hills is figuring out what works for you and what leaves you with that hurts-so-good feeling afterwards and just craving more! What are some of our favourite hill workouts?