Find our 8-week hill training plan at the bottom of this page.
Most Runners Dread Hills
Some don’t mind them so much. And still others actually like them. But no matter how you feel about hills, you should include hill running in your training regimen. Doing so will build your stride power and durability and improve your ability to pace hills effectively in races. Sounds pretty good, no? Then try our eight-week hill training plan!
The plan (located in full at the bottom of this page) includes three key workout types—hill repetition runs, hilly tempo runs and hilly long runs—each of which serves a different purpose.
Hill Repetition Runs
Short, fast intervals are a great way to build aerobic and anaerobic fitness as well as fatigue resistance at high intensities. Hill repetitions do all of this plus add power to your stride. These workouts should be run on a moderate slope (6 to 8 percent is ideal, but work with what you have) and at a hard effort equal to 80 to 90 percent of the maximum speed you could sustain for the required distance.
Hilly Tempo Runs
Tempo runs develop the ability to run relaxed and efficiently at intermediate speeds. Doing tempo runs on hilly routes offers these same benefits while also improving the ability to pace hills effectively. Most runners push too hard when running uphill and then lose time while recovering after they go over the top. On the flip side, they don’t push hard enough when running downhill, losing their opportunity to take full advantage of gravity’s pull. Concentrate on avoiding these common errors when doing the hilly tempo runs in our plan. These workouts should be done at a moderate intensity that is close to the highest effort level you could sustain for 60 minutes in a race.
Hilly Long Runs
Runners don’t always hit the wall in longer races because they run out of energy. Sometimes it happens because their legs get beat up from repetitive impact. Doing long runs on hilly routes helps prevent both causes of bonking. These runs should be done at an easy intensity that allows you to speak comfortably in full sentences, even when going uphill, which may require that you go really slow and even walk at times.
8-Week Hill-Running Plan
No training plan is truly one-size-fits-all, but ours has built-in flexibility. On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, there are optional easy runs. Choose either the run option or the rest option on these days to match your normal training frequency. On the first Sunday of the program, do a hilly run that’s 1 mile longer than the longest run you did the week before, whether it was 12 miles or 2. The third and sixth weeks of the program are reduced-mileage recovery weeks (indicated by peach shading).
Do you find yourself being left behind by runners of similar ability when you’re running up or down hills? This may be because they have better hill-running technique. Practice these form cues when doing the workouts in our plan.
Uphill Running Technique Cues:
- Stay upright—don’t bend forward at the waist.
- Extend your leg fully behind your body when pushing off the ground.
- Keep your head up.
Downhill Running Technique Cues:
- Tilt your whole body forward at the ankles to remain perpendicular to the angle of the slope.
- Don’t reach out ahead of your body with your leg—try to let your foot land just in front of your hips.
- Keep your eyes focused 20 to 30 feet ahead of you so you can choose the safest and most efficient line down the hill.