Workout of the week: Hill repeats

You know it’s going to be a tough workout when the e-mail outlining your running route concludes with a cheerful reminder that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”

The route in question on Tuesday: the Sligo-Ritchie loop, which my running group tackles on a semi-regular basis. The Sligo part is fine—Sligo Creek Trail is pretty, and pancake flat. Ritchie Avenue is the killer. My Garmin tells me it gains 110 feet of elevation over .4 mile—an average grade of around 5 percent (check out this calculator to compute grade). My quads tell me it’s closer to leg-presses or squats than running.

This hill sucked the life out of me when I first ran it last summer. It killed me again when I ran it last week. So I decided to do hill repeats on it last Friday, to conquer the hill mentallyand to increase my leg strength, boost my aerobic capacity and burn way more calories than I would on a flat route of the same distance (yep, more calories—keep reading).

In the September issue of Running Times, running coach Greg McMillan touts hill repeats as among the best workouts for half-marathoners, as they improve both aerobic capacity and your body’s ability to clear lactic acid after a hard effort.

And you can count on a 10-percent increase in calories burned for each degree of incline when you’re running hills, Dr. Jana Klauer, a weight-loss expert, told Runner’s World. This means running on a 10-percent incline actually doubles your calorie-burn.

Here’s how: Find a short, steep hill that takes about a minute to run up; or a medium hill that takes about two minutes to run up. Run uphill, jog downhill. Repeat. Check out this Running Times story for more specifics.

My hill workout Friday hasn’t translated into actual fitness gains yet, so the hill was as physically exhausting as ever on Tuesday night. But when I got to the top, I got a serious mental boost from knowing I didn’t have to turn around and run it again! Despite the hill, and 90-plus degree temperatures, I averaged 8:30-minute miles  for the 4.7 mile route, which doesn’t include a .78-mile warmup and a .76-mile cooldown (6.24 miles total).

How do you incorporate hills into your training?

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Workout of the week: Hill repeats

  1. Jessican_DC

    I am blessed/cursed with only hills in my neighborhood route loops, so any run under 5 miles is by definition a super hilly run. It works out nicely because I hit the nice, flat trails for anything over 5 miles, but get the extra workout for my “easy” short runs.

  2. Great post, and awesome info! I use HR’s in what I call “the strengthening phase”. A four week period beginning the training cycle. I use a 1/10th mile 5 degree hill and run lights out up and jog down…

  3. *sighs in envy* i miss hills.

  4. Liz

    “Luckily” my neighborhood forces me to do some big hills either at the beginning or the end of my run since I basically live on a hill. I’ve noticed in races I can pull ahead on the uphills, so I’m happy then, but sometimes I hate them!

  5. I run hill repeats every other week, and make sure to get a good distance run that incorporates a few hills on the weeks I don’t do hill repeats. For some sick reason I love how hard they are.

  6. Hills are so intimidating but a great workout. I have some on my sched for this week but I haven’t done them yet… I am being easy on myself since this is my first week back in awhile and I can barely manage 3 miles!

  7. lizard151

    My group has started running hills around Iwo Jima. It’s tough, but I know I’ll be grateful come Marine Corps morning when I’ll only have to run it once 🙂

    • When I trained for MCM last year, I did most of my long runs on flat terrain, but always added a few short, brutal hill repeats at the end. After all that prep, when I actually hit Iwo Jima, it truly didn’t seem so bad!

  8. Pingback: Hill Running | Fiolas Adventures

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