"Hills are your friend!" Why you should include hills sessions in your training, by Dave Taylor, our resident Coach.
A great man once said to me “Hills are your friend!”
It was a notable triathlete talking all those years ago when I made the transition from pure running into the multi-disciplinary sport. Whilst he meant this mainly in the context of cycling, it certainly holds true for running. I took it to heart and take every opportunity to quote it to the people I coach.
Hills are tough and fab! They are great for improving strength, stamina, cardio whilst building muscle in the calves, quads and glutes. They are also good for your hamstrings. Including a hill session in your weekly schedule will do much to take you towards achieving your full potential as a runner and smash your PB.
Here’s one I do.
Those of you who have run our MBNA Chester Marathon and Metric Marathon will be all too familiar with Sandy Lane, which happens to be a mile from where I live. Yep, it’s THAT hill. It is about 500 meters in length and gains 62 ft in elevation. The run to and from the hill gives me the perfect warm up and warm down.
I run up this hill 6-8 times at a level of effort that will produce consistent time throughout the session. (It is no good blasting up it on one rep and then crawling up it the next one!)
To climb any hill, you should shorten your stride, pump your arms and try for a good knee lift. I find it best to avoid looking to the top of the hill, rather at 45 degrees.
Beware of pushing it too hard at the beginning of the climb. It’s best to ease off in the knowledge that as it ramps up, it will start to challenge your legs and lungs! If you are not used to running hills, you’ll have to experiment to find the right pace that works for you and that will vary with each hill, depending on length and gradient.
After each hill rep, I jog down to the foot of the hill and then head straight back up. No hanging around at either end to admire the scenery because sneaking extra recovery time undermines the session.
If I were starting a hill session for the first time, I would start with 3–4 reps and build it up by one rep each week.
At the top of each climb you should be out of breath and your legs feeling a bit of a burn. This should revert to normal as you jog back down.
This is how you get the all-important progressive overload, enabling your body to adapt to the increased workload.
You have lots to play with: incline and length of the hill; intensity of effort; number of reps. Phew! I strongly suggest however, that you only increase one of these at any time.
If the hill you have chosen is rather daunting, then just run a portion of it. That’s another variable you can use – climb a bit higher as you progress!
See what hills you can find in your local area and give a hill session a try. If you’re unsure of the best place to try, ask a friend, your local run group/club (someone there will know of a great place) or go for a little drive to scout out some potential locations. Running hills is always better with friends, so take your running partner or group.
As a coach I have a catchphrase for every occasion. My hilly one is “The only way to get better at hills is to run up lots of hills!”
By the way, the triathlete all those years ago was Andy White of Chris and Andy fame!
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The route is renowned for being fast and largely flat – more than 70% of our runners achieve PBs!
Marius Ionescu in 2014
Julie Briscoe in 2013
2019 Marathon Results
|1st||Tom Charles (Trafford AC)||2:29:29|
|2nd||Tristan Windley (Keswick AC)||2:29:36|
|1st||Abbey van Dijk||3:01:51|
|2nd||Johanna Sutcliffe (Halifax Harriers & AC)||3:04:59|
|3rd||Camilla Hermsen (Harpenden Arrows)||3:05:11|
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