Long Hill Repeats
Long hill repeats are the traditional type of hill workouts many runners want to do when they feel they need to improve their hill running skills. A good example of this type of workout is 10 x 90 second hill repeats at a hard effort with a walk or jog back down the hill for recovery.
These types of hill workouts are fantastic for improving VO2max and increasing muscle strength. In fact, long hill repeats are almost a form of strength training. As a runner, you can do squats, lunges, and hamstring curls until your muscles burn, but nothing compares exactly to running. The forceful contractions caused by the lifting of the hips, glutes and quads when you’re running up the hill utilizes the same principle mechanics as many plyometrics exercises. Also, because these long hill repeats are often very intense and last anywhere from 30-90 seconds, they are a great VO2 max workout.
Unfortunately, doing lots of hill repeats will not help you run faster over a hilly course. During a race, many of the hills you encounter will be long and gradual, not steep and short. Furthermore, the pace at which you ascend the hill will be conservative, not an all out sprint. Therefore, the specific muscles you are working and the demands you are placing on your body will be drastically different between a hill repeat workout and race.
This doesn’t mean that long hill repeats are useless. You can build general running strength and fitness when you integrate them into your training plan. I suggest sprinkling them into your training schedule in place of a VO2 max workout to help build muscle strength and enjoy a nice change of pace.