Beginners and Beyond


Question about hills (Read 364 times)


    Tell me what you do.  I haven't done any, save for the slight inclines on my daily runs.  But I'm wondering a few things:


    -Where do you go to do them?

    -What is the distance?

    -How many repeats do you do?

    -When do you do them?  (ie. Day of the week, before or after a particular run, same day as a particular run?)

    -Do you just basically run up and down the hill, back and forth until you're done?


    I'm figuring this is a decent time to start working on this.  There's a pretty intense hill near my house that I could probably go to work on.  I just need more info before I start.

    Do you even run?

      Hills are deliciously painful and one of the best things you can do for your running.  There are basically three workouts I use for hills.


      1.  Short hill sprints.  Warm up with 15-20 minutes of jogging first or do these at the end  of a normal easy run.  Find a steep hill and sprint up.  This is an all out sprint.  And I mean all out.  Start with 6 sprints of 6 seconds.  Walk back down to recover.  Be very careful.  Do too many of these and you can hurt your hamstrings.  I hurt my left hamstring doing these (I stupidly started with 10 x 10) in January, 2011 and it has never fully healed.  Anyway, start with 6 x 6 and gradually increase the number and the seconds.  However, there is no need to go beyond 10 x 10.


      2.  Medium hill speed.  Find a hill with a 3-5% grade.  Run up the hill for 200-300 yards at 5K effort.  Note 5K effort not 5K pace.  Run up 6-8 times and jog back down for recovery.  Then, jog back up.  Now, run down at 5K effort 3-4 times.  Everyone tends to forget that races have as much downhill as they do uphill and it is important to learn how to run those downhills.  They are a marvelous way to make up shitloads of time without  expending a lot of energy.  


      3.  Long, rolling hills.  If you live in an area where you can find a course that involves constant ups and down with none of them terribly steep, you can just run it easy and still get in a great workout.  If you want to kick it up a notch, you can do something like run uphill at tempo effort while recovering on the downhills and then switch it up a bit by running some downhills at tempo effort while recovering on the uphills.

      Short term goal: 17:59 5K

      Mid term goal:  2:54:59 marathon

      Long term goal: To say I've been a runner half my life.  (I started running at age 45).

      delicate flower

        Most of my hill "training" is just going out the front door.  Lots of rolling hills where I live.  I've gotten much better at hills during the last year simply by incorporating them into my daily runs.  I'll even run my easy and recovery runs on those routes but just keep them slow.


        For a true hill workout though, I'll pick one of the routes and run it hard.  This is the profile from one of my routes:

        About 350 feet of elevation gain but you can see it's all in the final 2.5 miles.  Six months ago I was running those final miles at 11:00 pace.  Now I can run them at 8:00 pace on a good day.  I'll do the run fast in the opposite direction for a real butt kicker since the hills are steeper that way. 


        By the way, I took this screen shot from Strava.  If you haven't used Strava, the highlighted green hills represent "segments" that I created.  Strava will give you your stats for those segments and keep track of your best times, plus it'll tell you who the current leader is on those segments.  Some local guy has run those two segments at a 6:30 pace.  I'll never get the best times on those! 


        YAYpril - B-Plus

          Like Phil, I just run hills in my neighborhood a lot. Here's the elevation from a run I did on Sunday:



          Not quite as severe as his hilly loop, but there were some good hills in there. I can't go a mile without hitting a hill in my neighborhood. Sometimes I do "hill fartleks" - I'll run fast on uphills and then recover on flats/downhills. I don't do a lot of structured repeats, but if I need/want to, there's a hill 1/4 mile from my house that's about 60 feet of uphill over .17 mile. It's good for longer repeats.


          levitation specialist

            I do the rolling hills type workouts 2 days a week. Our neighborhood is very hilly(by Nebraska standards anyways), so I just run them at a bit slower than 5k pace, focus on form and incline and descend the same rate. Hills in races were my biggest suckage for time in races, now they have become a non issue. And they make you faster overall pace wise because your body works harder in the same distance when you incorporate hilly sections. Flats seem easy! Mine are 3 mile routes each time.


              I started doing hills seriously only 4 weeks ago, but already, I can see a big improvement. I do them on the TM, because it's as flat as a pancake around here. I started gradually, but now I try to run hills three times a week: during a recovery run, very slowly, then at about 30 sec slower than MP during my MLR and finally, I do 4 of them in the last miles of my LRs, on tired legs. I start at 3% and work my way to 6% and I hold as long as I can before working my way down to 3% again. Once a week,  I make the hills last one mile, and I'll usually do 3 or 4 repeats. The other two days are shorter repeats, like 800m and I simply put it 5% and keep it there. I don't do hill sprints, yet, because frankly, on a TM, it sucks big time.


              Be careful though, on Sunday, I did 4 long hills at the end of my LRs, as well as 4 miles descent (3%), as soon as I finished my run, I had incredible pain in my right knee. It felt like all the bones were broken in it. It kept me awake that night because the pain was so intense. I ran recovery miles on Monday, no hills, still with pain. By Tuesday (yesterday), things felt better. I did hills again, but I was very apprehensive. The pain didn't come back, but I'm monitoring it carefully.

              PRs: Boston Marathon, 3:27, April 15th 2013

                      Cornwall Half-Marathon, 1:35, April 27th 2013

              18 marathons, 18 BQs since 2010

                My usual hill workout is to do a mile to mile and a half warm up, and then 8-10 hill repeats on Cat Hill in Central Park, which is a 3.7% grade. it works out to be a 5 mile workout total with 1 mile cool down.


                On the weekends I'll incorporate the Harlem hills into my long run, which are 4.4% grade, but I usually don't do repeats on them.


                Not a dude

                  You're still building your mileage, right? If you haven't done any of your runs on a hilly route, why don't you start there first before incorporating structured sprints and repeats?  I've been running my hilly (or hillier...I am in Oklahoma after all) route a couple of times a week and am just now starting to add more structured hillwork.


                    Thanks for all the input.  I'm definitely bookmarking this thread.


                    Yes, Flippy, I'm still building my mileage.  Maybe I'll look for a route near me with more hills.

                    Do you even run?

                      Thanks for all the input.  I'm definitely bookmarking this thread.


                      Yes, Flippy, I'm still building my mileage.  Maybe I'll look for a route near me with more hills.


                      I keep forgetting to tell you that I laugh out loud every time I read hip hop anonymous. Love, Scuba Steve.

                      Just B.S.

                        Hill are great. LTH has a lot of good advice. I truly believe that the challenge of running where I live for the last

                        13 years and dealing with these hills on every run I do (except at the track) has made me a better runner than

                        if I lived somewhere flat.


                        I cannot avoid hills anywhere  I run where I live. We have rollers, short steep hills, long steep mini-mountains,

                        and  long gradual climbs  all connected by short sections of flat!LOL


                        This is the elevation chart from the 2nd time I ran our local full, which goes right by my house. This is pretty much

                        my normal running route. I live at the top of that biggest hill, it's over 300 feet of climb to my house. I use that hill to

                        torment myself with  hill sprints at the end of an easy run at least once run each week.


                        Keep in my my elevations are in meters so X everything by 3.2, measurements on the right of chart. I complain a lot

                        about the hills here but in reality I love them. Not only do I run hills on every run, I pretty much race them every race

                        where I live. It makes it mentally very easy going away for races because I have never encountered a hill on a race

                        worse than the ones I run every day.


                        The two blips you see are were I bent down to pick up my water bottle which I dropped twice. I am pretty darn proud

                        of running every step of that Mother****er marathon!LOL


                        Seriously, embrace the hills, they will be your friend when you are digging deep in your next race.


                        Not a dude

                          I think that's a solid plan, but I'm still a noob too, so feel free to completely disregard anything I have to say re: running! However, I did notice a difference in my legs after simply running a hillier route rather than flat, so I think there is something to be said for starting out a bit smaller before adding the structured stuff.


                          Just FYI, the first hill workout in the Pfitzinger half marathon plan is 5 x 2:30 repeats on a moderately steep incline. I don't have a hill near me that is that long, so I did that workout on the treadmill this week, which is just bleh on two counts. 1. I hate the treadmill. 2. I didn't get the benefits of downhill training. Hopefully that intense hill near you is long enough!

                            For technique, checkout Jim2's page here:




                            Jim served as a mentor to many peeps over on RWOL...he has some great articles on there, loaded with advice.  I see that LTH's technical jargon has carried over to these forums, but hill running doesn't have to be that difficult.  In my neighborhood, there really isn't a route that doesn't include hills, so they are just a part of my runs.  Noodlez is correct, for now, incorporate them into your daily workouts, get used to the feel/stress of running them during a run, and once you've built up a base, then you can move on to more structured w/o's.  I hate the TM, but it is a great way to put them into your w/os. I've seen some TMs even have a decline function. 


                            Happy running.


                            Chief Unicorn Officer

                              I try to build some very tough hills into at least two of my easy paced distance runs, and that's what we tell our XC kids to do (we let them choose their routes). Sometimes I tack on some very short, very steep hill sprints at the end of an easy day (there's one behind my house and to do one hill sprint it takes about 8-10 seconds, so, not long). I'll do maybe 6 of those. Once in awhile I do a full hill repeat workout and I have two I choose from. The first involves 9 repeats total, 3 each on 3 different hills. They are .26, .21, and .33 in length. They're HARD, and quite steep. I don't even run down certain parts of them because they're so steep, but I do try to just jog back down and then start the next rep again. The other workout I do is a much gentler grade, but the incline goes up for about .25/mile ( it's a bridge). I'll do repeats at a tough pace (I go by effort and not by a specific pace number) and jog back to the start and start right into the next one. I'll do 8-10 of these.

                              Mile 5:49 - 5K 19:58 - 10K 43:06 - HM 1:36:54

                                Hills are deliciously painful and one of the best things you can do for your running.  There are basically three workouts I use for hills.



                                Ditto to what LTH said except instead of the hill sprints in #1 I like to do a series of fartleks up one particularly nasty local hill near my house. Like others have said, I ABSOLUTELY HATED hills and they tended to suck the life out of me when I started out running. However, its amazing to see the improvement that comes with time. Now it's just a tepid HATE I have for hills.

                                Train smart ... race smarter.