Strength Training on Hills
by: Eric Brown
Strength Training. Most of us have read about strength training and it usually involves spending 1-2 hours a day, 2-3 days a week in the gym pumping iron. Not your cup of tea! Well there is an alternative and much cheaper and satisfying way for distance runners - hill running. Using your own body weight as the resistance. Hill running builds strength in the legs, helps to increase stride length, improves racing ability. and builds mental toughness. Hill running is a specific kind of training stimulus and should be introduced into your training program gradually.
There are 3 kinds of hill running for distance runners. One is a series of gentle uphills and downhills as part of a cross country run. Another is a series of runs up a long but manageable hill. The third is a speed session up a short steep hill. Not only does hill running increase the stress at any given pace due to the extra work to overcome elevation changes, but also requires the use of the arms, legs and trunk in a manner different than in level running. The vigorous arm, shoulder and trunk muscle action from hill running cannot be duplicated on the track. It closely mimics the muscular activity required for sudden pace changes when overtaking or putting in the Hollywood finish.
Attacking hills in a long run provides a constantly recurring challenge. Each hill is an obstacle to overcome. This challenge simulates racing. conditioning the mind and body in a specific and practical way.
Long repetitions up hills of around 1 in 10 for around 90 seconds to 2 minutes duration is an excellent way of improving aerobic and anaerobic power. Start this session bv warming up with a 2 mile (3km) easy jog, then for the first session do 3-4 hills followed by a 2 mile (3km) cool down. Repeat the session once a week for 3 weeks to a maximum of eight hills. When done at level anaerobic pace, the added stress of the incline, may be physiologically similar to aerobic capacity interval runs building mental and physical strength.
Short hill sessions run quickly, can be done on a 1 in 6 hill with a short jog back down recovery, making this a predominantly anaerobic session. A very exaggerated bouncy running style with a quick, powerful knee lift and toe off, are all important elements for a sudden change in pace for those Hollywood finishes. Start the session off with a good warm up then do one set of 8 hills only increasing the number of reps when 8 can be done in full control of a bouncy style (knee lift and toe off). Increase by 2 each week until 2 sets of 8 reps can be completed with 5 mins rest between each set. Don't worry about times, powerful and controllable hill running is the aim.
Spend some time on the first two hill sessions, training strength and endurance before attempting the speed sessions. Don't rush into hill training. Allow your body time to adapt as you should always do with any change of training regime.
Eric Brown, Cool Running Australia, 18.09.97