7 Reasons to Embrace Hill Training


by John Stanton

Running hills can be intimidating, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Why not make this the year that you take on hill training? Here are seven reasons to give it a try:

  • It makes you a better runner.

The added resistance of running uphill builds leg strength, improves overall stamina and increases efficiency—which translates into running faster.

  •  It keeps things fresh.

If your running routine is getting repetitive or stagnant, hill training is guaranteed to add variety and intensity to your training plan.

  • Instant “street cred.”

Have you ever felt left out when you overhear other runners discussing their hard-core workouts? Hill training will change all that. You’re choosing to run up and down a hill, multiple times, on purpose. You’re definitely a committed runner now.

  • Improved running posture.

While running uphill, stay powerful and challenge the hill, but keep your effort at a level where you can maintain proper running form. Stay upright and avoid leaning forward, since good posture makes it easier to breathe. Shorten your stride and try to stay light on your feet, especially as the hill steepens. You are training your core muscles to help you run tall and strong.

  • Gravity does the work for you.

On the downhill portion, resist the urge to tilt your body back and try to put on the brakes. Gravity is helping you out, so don’t fight it—you’ll notice that your pace picks up with no additional effort. Open your stride slightly, lean forward and away you go.

  • It’s easy to customize the workout.

Find a suitable hill that is 400 to 600 metres in length, with an incline of 6 to 8%. Do a proper warm-up so that you are feeling relaxed and loose. From there, you can determine an appropriate number of hill repeats (up the hill and back down is one repeat) for your skill and experience level. If you are a newcomer to hill training, try one repeat (running at around 80% of your maximum heart rate) and see how you feel. Do not attempt more than four repeats in your first session. If you wish, you can add one repeat every week, to a maximum of 12 repeats.

  • Newfound mental toughness.

In addition to the physical benefits, successful hill workouts will build your confidence level and enhance your mental preparation. During a race, you can think back to the hill sessions and the character you built there. You’ll know you can handle unexpected obstacles, because you have already won the battles in your training. Any challenge you’re faced with on race day will be just another hill to climb.


John Stanton is the President and Founder of the Running Room. He is the author of 10 books about running, walking and family fitness.

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