We always fear the dreaded hill workouts. We don’t look forward to them, but we do them because, whether consciously or not, we know and feel the benefits. The hardest of workouts for many people, running hills brings varied benefits to all who do them.

I happen to love hill workouts. The nuttier the runner or fitness enthusiast, the more addictive and anticipated are the hill workouts. Other than having some crazy affinity for torturing ourselves up and down the hills, let’s look at what logic exists for us to get inspired to hit the slopes.

First off, as most would guess, hill running develops strength, power and speed endurance. Strength comes from providing our muscles resistance to work through which, thanks to gravity, the hill offers plenty. The gluteus medius is often implicated in many running related problems and injuries from the low back and pelvis right through the hips, knees, ankles and feet. Hill running can help strengthen those glutes along with our quadriceps and calves.

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The power improvement, however, is unique. Power is strength in action. While you could strengthen those muscles in the gym or in a class, doing it while running is an ideal cross over to benefits in your other workouts and your races. Strengthening sessions outside of running or from cross training can also help decrease injuries and add stability, but hill running is directly related to your running power and efficiency per stride.
Efficiency, of course, is always welcome. Endurance is efficiency over a long distance while speed endurance is efficiency in bursts, like strides and sprints, over short distances. Having good speed endurance as a distance runner allows you to improve workouts like fartleks and interval sessions, allows you to shift gears during workouts and races, and also provides you with that ultimate kick at the end of your race to pass all those with failing legs.

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Outside of these clear benefits, running hill repeats offers a few key advantages outside of actual “hitting the ground running” that are sure to inspire. For example, the psychology of running hills and completing a hill workout make you tougher for your other workouts and for races. Being able to conquer those hills and carry your speed over the top allows you to have confidence in taking on kilometer after kilometer, whether in a 5k or a marathon.
Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, hills are a great method of returning to running after injury or burn out. The ability to push hard without hitting the ground with as much impact as you would on a flat surface or negative slope has value. In fact, after injury, slowly running uphill with good technique can be a great rehabilitative effort. Having hit a plateau with your running or feeling frustrated or annoyed with some aspect of your training can be tough as well, but a good series of hill workouts could help you right through!

Hills are a part of a runner’s staple when it comes to workout selection. There is the classic hill repeat up and down, but there are other varieties of hill workouts as well depending on what you’re training for or what your goal race might be. For a customized hill workout including length, time of assent, speed, effort, incorporated sprint, strength or stride work, feel free to contact me and we’ll talk. It would be a pleasure to review your hill running efforts and ensure that your hill running is heading you to the top of your running game!

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