Many of you will like the idea of running up hills, and some of you won’t because it’s demanding work.

You look ahead and see a big climb ahead, and you start to question how you’re ever going to make it to the top. You know your heart, lungs and muscles will be working overtime, but step by step you make your way up, working harder and harder and growing along the way.

Hill workouts are one of the most versatile sessions that runners can do all year round to build strength, speed and VO2 max.

Hills improve speed and strength

Running up hills either on a treadmill or outside has several benefits for runners. Not only does it feel great when you’ve reached the top of a giant hill, you know that by doing it you are gaining in more ways than you could ever imagine.

The act of running inclines is a form of resistance training that works the muscles in your calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes – the same muscles used for sprinting!  The resistance of running uphill increases your basic speed and endurance because of the sheer power required to endure such a strenuous training session. So, if you hate doing circuit training or strength training, or you’re someone who’s a little short on time, adding hills into your training will reward you with numerous benefits.

Ways to include hills in your training

1. Short and Medium Hill Reps

The purpose of these workouts is to improve speed, power and anaerobic energy. Hills should be approximately 20-90 seconds, at a relatively high gradient. Efforts should be hard as you are working faster than race pace for short hills, slightly above race pace for medium hills. Therefore, make sure that you have sufficient recovery, 1-2 minutes to ensure that heart rate and breathing are all back to normal. Depending on the race distance for which you are training, start with a few repeats and gradually increase the repetitions throughout your training cycle. These short repeats are great to do during your base building phase, too, as they will help you with longer runs in the future.

2. Long Sustained Hills

When you are doing longer hills, you should be focusing on aerobic energy recruitment rather than speed or power. These hills should be around 2 – 3 minutes. For that reason, it’s important to start off steady and gauge your effort throughout. Make sure that you are recovered before hitting the next rep. A steady jog back to the bottom of the hill should be enough. Again, start with a few of these and gradually increase as your training progresses.

3. Hilly Long Runs

These runs are beneficial for those who have a hilly race coming up but are also vital during when building up your base phases.

Things to avoid

1 Running hills when you are fatigued

2 Introducing hills before building a solid base

3 Doing more than one hill session in the same week

4 Having too little recovery

5 Never run hills with the start of a hamstring, calf or Achilles injury. You will make it worse.