Hill yeah! Using hill training to run faster


Most runners want to run faster. But it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of moderately or easy paced runs when you’re adding distance.

The long Sunday run with friends is one of my favourite things of the week. But it’s not a speed workout. Nor should it be. The point of that one is to get the mileage in, keeping to a conversational pace.

But that’s not enough to get faster. Any running plan will tell you that you need to switch it up. There are a number of ways to do that. Tempo runs, where you run a shorter distance at a “comfortably hard” pace, help the body get used to a faster pace. The thing about tempo runs, according to this article, is to keep the pace consistent throughout.

Today though, I want to talk about hill training.  My running friend Julie and I have added one night a week of hill repeats to our Niagara Women’s Half Marathon training plan.  It’s not as if we live in a mountainous part of the world, so the hill we use is moderate in length and pitch.

It’s great for repeats because it’s adjacent to the park, has almost no traffic, and though tough, I can easily run up it in less than a minute. It’s a tough interval, and by the end of it I can’t breath. But I can make it.

We run up, not even trying to talk. Julie is usually up ahead of me (she’s good at making a strong burst at the beginning), so that keeps me going. Then we catch our breath on the way down, walking and chatting. Then when we get to the bottom, up we go again.

We did that four times. Then we went for a short run along the road, back into the park down a different hill, along the river, added one more hill repeat to make it five, and called it a night.

What I love about hill repeats is that the results are immediate. When we finished those four repeats and then broke away from the hill to run, we managed to maintain a dramatically faster pace than usual, and for quite a bit longer than I would usually be able to maintain it for.

Hills make me believe that a sub-60 minute 10K is an attainable goal because after I run a hill I can keep a pace that would have me cross the finish line in less than 60 minutes if I could maintain it for 10K.

Granted, I can’t (yet) keep that awesome pace for more than about a kilometre so far, but it’s only our second week of hills.

My training goals are a bit unfocused right now. I’ve got some speed goals (the sub-60 10K or at least a sub-30 5K), but at the same time I’m training for the Niagara Women’s Half marathon. That’s on June 5th. But I’m hitting a good mix of faster, slower, and hills.

Sunday remains the long, slow distance run at a conversational pace. We’re going out for 15K this week. Tuesdays are for the hills with Julie. I try to get out on my own for a 5K tempo run on Thursdays or Fridays.

Hill repeats aren’t the only way to get faster, but they’re a way. And I figure if we do enough of them, it won’t be nearly as daunting when I encounter a hill on a race course. And the more I adapt to hills, the easier the flats will seem.

So I say “hell yeah!” to hill training.

Here are some Runners’ World tips for getting the most out of hills.


4 thoughts on “Hill yeah! Using hill training to run faster

  1. I haven’t done hill repeats recently because I live in a hilly part of Tennessee, so I always figured I got sufficient hill exposure. Your post makes me want to re-think that stance. Thanks!

  2. Great tip, thanks! I’m working on a sub-30 5k this year and hoping to build up to longer runs next year, but I haven’t been doing any hills, so I’ll have to try that!

  3. Thanks for reminding us about the power of hill repeats. This also holds on the bike. Interval training really is the way to get faster, even (or especially) for the long haul. Will be integrating some into my own training as I progress.

  4. I live at the beach where there aren’t really any hills to work with and tonight I went for a run in a different town that was riddled with hills. Now I miss them and want to take them with me! Hill Yeah!

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