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 galore at races.
This session combines more gradual or undulating hills over a longer distance to develop both strength and 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 long relatively gradual, or undulating, hill climb that includes at least three minutes of climbing. Complete as many laps as possible in the time available.
Two example course profiles are shown below.
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)
Start the lap in a convenient location. While accenting, climb at a steady pace at about 80% effort. You should be able to say a few words, but not speak full sentences.
Slow down on the decent. Relax your neck and shoulders (this is your active recovery). Once you have completed one lap, repeat as many as you can in the time allocated. Stop to rest and take on water between laps if necessary.
Cool Down (10 minutes)
Perform at least 10 minutes of standard 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. Be sure to fully get your breath back before returning to the start.
- 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.