In top form thanks to hill running

3. August 2018

Hill runs are probably the most intensive variant of all the fast forms of training. They are highly efficient, but also extremely taxing. As a result: there is a very fine line between getting into top form and over-training. It is therefore necessary to take a couple of key points into consideration if you want to integrate hills runs into your training.

Short hill runs

The classic hill runs are short, and each repetition takes around a maximum of up to two minutes. During intensive hill runs, you train your strength, strength endurance, speed, and above all, lactate threshold. Short hill runs are suitable for runners aiming to compete in shorter race distances (middle-distance track runners), but also for road, cross-country, and mountain runners. The following should be kept mind:

  • The intensity is high and lies in the aerobic/anaerobic transition zone.
  • A load duration of 30 to 60 seconds involves 8 to 12 repetitions, whereas longer loads require correspondingly fewer. Keep all repetitions the same length.
  • Take jog breaks in between. It’s best if you jog back along the same route at a very comfortable pace. For a load of approximately one minute, the break should thus automatically last 90 seconds to two minutes.
  • For shorter loads you can check the appropriate intensity with a heart rate monitor.
  • The first repetitions should not be done too quickly to ensure you can maintain the pace to the last run.
  • Alternatively: 3 sets of 3 to 4 × 45 seconds with a leisurely 10-minute continuous run between the blocks.

Long hill runs

Long hill runs are specifically tailored to the needs of long-distance and marathon runners, as well as adventure and mountain runners. Longer hill runs primarily train your strength endurance. For mountain runners in particular, the runs are much the same as doing competition-specific training in the zone just below the individual anaerobic threshold. Long hill runs are thus somewhat less intensive than short ones. The following should be kept mind:

  • Do fewer repetitions but increase the loads from 5 to 10 minutes. Hills runs of 15 minutes are also possible.
  • After a load of 10 minutes, the jog break back to the starting point will be relatively long. When doing 3 repetitions, it is therefore advisable to look for a sufficiently long ascent and only jog part of the way back (around 5 minutes). 

The following generally applies to hill runs: pay attention to your leg and arm work and a good technique, even when lactic acid is building up in your arms and legs. Make sure your upper body is not leaning too far forward. By the way: there are various types of hills so make sure there is a certain degree of gradient to ensure the optimum effect is achieved. As a guideline, the gradient should lie between 17% and 27%. You will find numerous uphill street signs displaying the percentage gradient. For short hill runs, the gradient can be relatively steep, whereas for longer runs, it can be somewhat flatter.




The closer the competition, the shorter!

Since hill runs are highly strenuous forms of training, they need to be structured in a very specific way. While long hill runs are suitable during the preparatory period, shorter versions are best in the immediate run-up to a competition. The following rule applies: the closer the competition, the shorter the distance and the longer the break. Those who divide up their training periods into weeks of easy, light, medium and hard training should only plan to do hill runs during the medium and hard weeks.

Equally important: don’t forget recovery! As soon as you notice any signs of tightening in the calves or buttocks during your runs, immediately stop training. Hill runs particularly strain untrained muscles and muscle soreness is inevitable after the first hill run. It therefore makes sense to do an extensive warm-up run (15 to 20 minutes).

The most important tips for hill runs

  • Don’t start too quickly. If you find you are covering less distance during the last runs, then you were too quick at the beginning.
  • Select ground that is not too bumpy (risk of tripping).
  • The steeper the terrain, the more strength required.
  • Watch out for muscle soreness (do a good warm-up run, gradually increase the loads in doses).
  • Carefully jog downhill at a tempered pace during the breaks.
  • Never do hill runs if your muscles start tightening.
  • Don’t do them more than once a week.
  • Allow for sufficient recovery after the hill runs.