Hill training will significantly improve your strength, speed, cardio fitness and endurance. It will also give you confidence to “embrace the climb” which will lead to more freedom and enjoyment, as well as overtaking opportunities at races.
Here we outline two main options.
1. A high intensity 300/200/100m repeated cycle option – with a greater focus on strength.
2. A mid-high intensity longer loop option with a greater focus on endurance.
Perform this training at least once or twice a month as part of a balanced training program.
Equipment & Venue
This session can be performed on road or off road. Wear hi-visibility clothing appropriate for the weather.
You will need a moderately steep hill with little to no traffic at least 300m long. Mentally (or physically) mark out the start, 100m, 200m, and 300m locations. The distances do not need to be precise and can be calculated by counting strides, or using an app such as Strava’s route creation tool (best in satellite view). You can take advance of natural features or street furniture as distance markers (such as trees, bushes, telephone poles, rocks etc).
Longer Loop Option
With this option one loop of the circuit counts as one cycle. Local training locations with course profiles are shown below. Again complete as many cycles as possible in the time available.
Warmup (10 minutes)
Loosen up any tightness with dynamic exercises, Include at least five minutes of easy running gradually increasing in pace.
Main Session (30-40 minutes)
Stat at the bottom of the hill and run up to the 300m mark maintaining a steady pace at about 80% effort. You should be able to say a few words, but not speak full sentences.
Return back to the start taking it easy with relaxed neck and shoulders (this is your active recovery).
Repeat this formula for the 200m and 100m intervals. This is one cycle.
Repeat the cycle as many times as you can in the time allocated.
Stop to rest and take on water between cycles if necessary.
Longer Loop Option
The same as the 300/200/100m option but you just complete one loop and then repeat as many times as you can in the time allocated. Don’t forget you need to maintain a steady pace at about 80% effort, driving hard on the accents and recovering on the descents.
Cool Down (10 minutes)
Perform at least 10 minutes of cool down stretches.
Choose one or two areas you feel you need to improve and practice them during the session.
- Lean forward slightly into the gradient with your whole body – bend at your ankles and not at your waist*.
- Reduce your stride length and take smaller, more frequent steps, making sure you get up on your toes.
- Swing your arms to propel you uphill. Keep your arms bent at approximately 90 degrees at the elbow and swing back as if poking someone behind you.
- Relax your upper body, particularly your neck and shoulders and catch your breath.
- This is your active recovery so save your energy for the clim phase of the session.
- On gentle slopes, increase your cadence and embrace the gravity, now it is your friend.
- Don’t lean back and land heavily on your heels as this puts a lot of strain on your hamstrings.
- If the slope is of a medium gradient and the surface smooth, lean forward slightly, keep your knees soft, land on your heels (if breaking) and roll through to your toes. Also, keep your arms out wide to stabilise yourself.
- If the terrain is uneven carefully scan ahead and run with ‘twinkle toes’ (i.e. land hesitantly on the balls of your feet) to avoid twisting an ankle. Heal landing on an uneven surface is very risky.
- When approaching a hill don’t speed up in an effort to gain momentum, it will not work. Set your effort so that you can maintain it to avoid ‘dying’ by the time you reach the top.
- Don’t let your ego stop you walking – sometimes it’s actually quicker to walk up a steep slope than to attempt to run up it. Walking also means you’ll conserve energy. If you do walk, take big exaggerated strides. It may help to hold on to your thighs, just above your knees, and use them to push off on each step. This will generate momentum and save energy.
- If you’re tackling a really steep slope, run down in a wide zigzags to lessen the gradient and put your arms out for balance.
*Bending at the waist makes it much harder to use your hip flexors correctly to bring your leg up. You can prove this by standing up straight and lifting your knee high towards your chest using your hip flexors, then attempting to do the same thing with an exaggerated forward bend at the waist. It should be noticeably harder to lift your knee up high.