Hills: We love them. We hate them. When faced with the daunting task of powering up a hill many people choose to shy away. You could do that. Many runners could choose the path of least resistance and stick to flat surfaces. However, that is not in your best interest. That is why many runners don’t just choose to train on a hilly course, they actually seek out hills. And we are not talking about finding a couple of random hills to schlep up over the course of your run. This conversation is about actively seeking out a hill (or multiple hills) to make a conscious effort to work on hill sprints.
Why Run Hill Sprints?
Hill sprints will most assuredly have a positive impact on the athlete’s speed and overall fitness. First, hill sprints build strength – and a very specific type of strength. As a runner, you need to be able to power up hills. Running up a hill adds increased resistance which not only makes you stronger at running inclines, it overall makes you a stronger runner!
Hill sprints also tax your cardiovascular system more than running on a flat surface. This is just another perk to doing hill work. Certainly you can achieve that to some capacity just running on a hilly terrain; however, specifically making a concerted and conscience effort to run up hills is doing this to a larger extent.
Hills will also build mental toughness. Since hills are hard, it stands to reason that doing repeats will tax you mentally. If you want to toughen yourself up from that perspective hill sprint repeats is the way to do it.
If you are interested in HIIT (high-intensity interval training), hill sprints qualify! Take an easy jog to your favorite hill and tackle the hill 10-12 times. Take complete rest between efforts, then jog easily back home. you have just completed a HIIT workout!
Did you know that racing up a hill engages your core more? It is true! That is just another reason to incorporate them into your workout. As stated before, hills simply make you a stronger overall runner.
Runner Kim Johnson recognizes that some areas are simply flat and not conducive to hill training. To help improve her running, Johnson found an old landfill that was converted into a park. To work her hills she uses this hill. After warming up, Johnson sprints up which takes her roughly 30 seconds, and she does 10-15 of these. She then takes the sprints to a flat section of ground and does 10-15 more sprints. Imagine how much faster you feel doing the same length of time but on flat land. Johnson reminds us not to forget to cool down, no matter how tired you are!
Do Hill Sprints Make You Faster?
Yes. Hill sprints will make you faster and this is why. First, as a runner when you build strength, speed naturally follows. Second, bursts of hard efforts while going uphill will make the effort feel easier when you hit flat land.
Another point to consider is that if you are running a challenging course, practicing on differing terrain will help you feel strong on race day. Whether or not your racecourse is hilly is irrelevant. If you spend time on hills you are building strength and speed.
Are Hill Sprints Good Cardio?
Unless you skipped right to this sub-topic, you have already figured out that hill sprints are good cardio. An excellent form of HIIT training, going up hills taxes the cardiovascular system.
How Many Hill Sprints Should I Do?
First, don’t start off too big with your hill sprints. If you find yourself a massive hill and set out to do 12. When just starting to incorporate hill sprints into your workout aim for a moderate start.
Find a hill that will take you roughly 30 seconds to climb. Before you start, think about how long it takes your body to get good and warmed up. Whether that is a mile or two, run that far before attempting to do the sprint repeats. We advise rookies to hill workouts should start with six or seven sprints. Take somewhere between :30 and :60 seconds of recovery between each sprint up. What we mean by that is sprint up, coast down, and rest for a few seconds.
After your repeats, cool down for a mile or so.
Once you have successfully done this workout a few times, you can add sprints, working your way up to a dozen or so. Another way to add to this workout is to find a bigger hill. A more challenging hill might take you :60 seconds to get to the top. Tackle that hill the same way as the first one to avoid injury.
Can I Do Hill Sprints Every Day?
Although the benefits of hill sprints are many, it would be foolish to try to incorporate them every day. Why? Because you can do too much of a good thing. Just like you do speed work in moderation, you should think of hill sprints in much the same way.
Hill sprint workouts are most beneficial if you incorporate them into your workout week once a week. When laying out your week you might do speed once, a hill workout once, tempo once, and balance out the week with a couple of easy runs. The key to getting the most out of each workout is having balance in the greater picture of the workout week (and month, and training cycle).
It’s Just a Hill… Get Over It!
Although many athletes avoid hills at all costs, as you can see they should not be avoided if you want to get stronger, faster, and mentally tougher. Hill running, especially sprint repeats, have the potential to help you improve as a runner.
By simply making a conscious effort to seek hills out, you can find yourself being challenged and improving! Why doesn’t want that?