Quality Run 2: Hills

The Runnin’ Fools are starting a new phase of our training cycle.  We’ve just finished several weeks of circuit style workouts to help build total body strength in combination with running.  Now, with race day less than two months away, it’s time to introduce the next Quality Run: Hills.

And what better way to do that than on hump day 😉

I’ve run hills for as long as I can remember in my running career.  In middle school we would zig zag down a wooden ramp and run back up a steeply banked trail hill and proudly shout out what rep we were on.  And then we’d repeat.  And repeat.  And repeat.

In Memphis I would run laps on the Auction Street Bridge.  The slow slope of this bridge was longer but I’d go up and down, and then cross to the other side and repeat the process.  Some days I’d do it for time, others for reps but a secret and dark part of me really enjoyed it.

Austin was a hilly enough town that a regular street run would cover the hill workout.  One of my favorites though was Red River which was just rolling with slopes.

Now that I’m in Tulsa, I’m still trying to figure out how to get some incline practice in (especially with San Francisco just weeks away!).  There’s a significant incline coming back east from the river, and an elusive hill that the bikers call “Crybaby Hill”.  I stumbled upon the one we used today on a run last week in Owen Park.  We did an easy one mile warmup through the park and then three repeats on the hill.  It was about .15 miles up the hill and then we took a longer loop back down.  There was no rest between repeats except the slower pace down.  Finish with a cool down and we hit 2.85 miles!

Quality Run 2: Hills

Quality Run 2: Hills

Hills

What:  A run that includes a significant amount of incline, whether built into the route or from repeats up and down the same hill.

When:  Once a week in the middle of the training process, after some body weight strength training (circuits).

Why:  WE LOVE HILLS

  • Combines strength training with function.  Hills are great at coordinating the strength of tendons, ligaments, muscles and capsules of all major joints involved in running.
  • Power development.  Because your muscles have to work against more gravity to propel your body weight upward, they are able to develop more power than they would on flat surfaces.
  • Improved running economy.  Hill running has been shown in Sweden to improve runners’ economy by at least 3% after twice weekly hill sessions for 12 weeks.
  • Higher concentrations of aerobic enzymes.  The presence of these enzymes in the quadriceps can contribute to increased speed while running.
  • Maintained fitness.  It’s been shown that athletes who include hill training in their routine do not lose their fitness as quickly as those who do not run hills when time is taken off working out.
  • Increased calorie burn.  Adding hills to the routine dramatically increases the caloric expenditure of your workout as compared to the same distance and speed run on flat surfaces.

How: I’m sure I’ve convinced you to add hills to your routine, but there is one big thing to keep in mind.  ADD THEM SLOWLY.  Increasing intensity too fast is the number one cause of injury in runners!  Take your time with it, even if you feel like you’re fit enough to tackle ten repeats (which I’m sure we could have done this morning) start with 3-4. Then each time you run, you can add one to two additional repeats.  Be sure to take a rest day or an easy day between quality workouts!

Check out this article from Runner’s World (that I adapted some of the benefits listed earlier from) for much more detail!

Good luck, and see you on the hills (your glutes will thank you).

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