Every runner loves hills. Maybe. Love them or hate them, every runner needs hill work. If you’re racing a hilly course, like New York or Boston, practice and skill running hills is key to race day success. If you want to get faster, stronger and fitter, hills will help.
Why to do it: Hill work makes you durable. It makes you fast. And it improves your form. The extra power required run maintain your pace running uphill also makes you strong.
Your feet are landing higher then where they started. As a result, that means extra knee drive and generating power from your forefoot. It makes muscles work harder by firing more fibers in a faster sequence than flat ground. That promotes good form and helps muscles remember it. Good form plus strong legs means faster race times.
When to do it: Hill work is useful in every phase of a training cycle because there are short hills, long hills, steep hills and gradual hills. This makes hill work greatly variable and useful at all points in a cycle. Working on specific endurance? Steady long hills. Speed and strength? Short, hard hills. Beginners should start low and slow while more advanced runners can go steeper, longer and harder.
How to do it: Step one is finding the right kind of hill. It might not be what you expect, either. Maybe surprisingly, bridges, parking garages and treadmills can all serve as places to practice climbing. Consequently, if it’s just been raining and you don’t have spikes, a big grassy hill might not be the best choice. Make sure your footwear matches the location and conditions of your hill work.
Finally, if you’re looking to add hills to your training program, seek help from a qualified professional before hitting them too hard. They can wear out fast twitch muscles and leave your next workout lacking.