Strength Running, Episode 57 – The Complete Guide to Hill Workouts

Jason Fitzgerald’s Strength Running podcast is one of my favorites. I  finish nearly all his podcasts with a resolve to do something better. Episode 57 is The Complete Guide to Hill Workouts. Last year, my husband and I  went to San Francisco to celebrate his 40th birthday,  and I thought it would be a great place to torture myself tackle hills (hello, Lombard Street). Instead, my true nature came through and I ended up running on the Embarcadero sanfranwaterfront route, which is quite flat. As a runner, I’ll be the first to tell you, I love being comfortable.  Give me easy miles any day of the week. Hill work? I’ll hit snooze every time. Fortunately, I run with a group that provides accountability, peer pressure, and a promise to do specific hill work each week; at zero dark thirty, you can’t really tell how steep the hill is or where it ends. It’s miserably fun. What I enjoyed about this particular hill workout podcast  is that Jason tells WHY hill running is essential to training, and he gives several examples of hill workouts. A former coach told him that hill workouts are speed workouts in disguise. This perked my ears right up (I’m a glutton for punishment on the track). Hills build strength, speed, VO2 max, and are valuable for any training program.

Hill sprints, short hill reps,  long hill reps, and hill circuits are the four hill workouts worth doing as part of any training plan.  I knew what short hill reps and long hill reps were. The quick answer is there is a short hill (30-45 second) or a longer hill (60-90 second) where you can choose your point of misery mental fortitude. He also talks about when to plug in each of these hill cycles into your training (beginning, middle, or end) and how fast to do each hill repetition. Something that I’ve never done before is hill sprints, which is running as fast you can for 8-10 seconds, and he swears this has a lot of benefits. Like strides, you run hill sprints at the end of your running workout.  I think I can do anything for 8-10 seconds, and the recovery time is 90 seconds of walking. This made my sprinter’s heart so happy! The benefits include increasing your stride power, engaging muscles fibers, and improving running economy, which is a fancy way of saying it’ll keep you from getting injured.

Since deep down I really do want to become a better runner, I know that hill workouts are vital to my success in races. Erica and I live in an area with a lot of good rolling hills, and we also have access to a state park that is known for having a variety of inclines. Truthfully,  Umstead State Park is one of the  more humbling places to run in the Raleigh area. I think the next time we go run, we will have to try some hill sprints!

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