Coach Culpepper: Hit The Hills

Hill workouts are a necessary evil for all runners. 

Just a mention of the word “hills” causes some runners to shudder. Hills should not be thought of as an enemy that slows the average pace of your run, increases your heart rate or causes agony to your comfortable outing. Although they’re not easy, they are very necessary and should be planned for and embraced as a positive training element.

Hill work is an extremely effective way to gain more power, increase running economy and improve speed. The repetitive nature of hill workouts forces the muscular system to develop in response to the stress being placed on it, while the nervous system increases firing patterns to fast-twitch muscle fibers. Completing hill workouts also increases speed and endurance because of the resistance inherent to running up hill and the associated increase in heart rate.

RELATED: The Benefits Of Downhill Training

Hills should be thought of as a form of speed work and included intentionally; they help introduce the body to faster work with less impact at a slower pace. Injury-prone runners who struggle with adding faster work will find hills provide the same stimulus with less risk. It might seem a bit counterintuitive, but, if done properly, running up a hill at a slower pace with lighter footstrikes is actually a much safer approach than jumping on the track and hammering out speed work. Hills are also a great way to keep your heart rate up for an extended period of time, thus increasing overall aerobic development.

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