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Uphill Running Training Workouts and Intervals Plan for Speed, Endurance


Hills are tough, and are a real challenge to your muscles, breathing, circulation and heart rate. Running up hills break your normal rhythm and stride. Like interval training, it puts more strain on your body and makes your muscles work much harder. This builds strength and muscle mass.

Despite the extra effort required and extra aerobic and anaerobic demands it places on your body, hill running provides many benefits. It helps you run faster, run stronger and run with extra stamina and endurance.

Critically, it builds your capacity for that extra burst of speed to follow or initiate surges in pace that are so important in winning races. If the course includes hills, then hill training is a necessity.

Training on hills is not only good for improving aerobic capacity, but it help to build muscle strength as well. Having regularly hill running sessions in your program: quickens your pace, enhances leg-muscle strength, lengths your stride length, and it benefits your cardiovascular system.

It also improves your running efficiency and can help protect your leg muscles from soreness caused by running the same pace all the time. One big advantage of running hills are that the benefits can be achieved in a small period of time (6 weeks).

This article discusses the benefits of hill running training routines for improving speed and endurance. It also shows how hill running is a form of interval training that can add variety and interest to your regular straining schedule.

Uphill running is a form of interval training and helps build aerobic endurance, VOmax and the pace at which you can run comfortably
Uphill running is a form of interval training and helps build aerobic endurance, VO max and the pace at which you can run comfortably. Source: Public Domain

Types of Hill Running Workouts

A good hill training routine combines the benefits of muscle strengthening with the aerobic and anaerobic conditioning. Hill training also strengthens your resolve and mental ability to challenge yourself with tough workouts. There are four common types of hill running workouts: 

Stamina Hills - Speed and Power Running Up Hills - Short, fast interval runs up relatively steep hills with recovery periods between repetitions (usually while descending) to promote enhanced ability for bursts of speed

Downhill Sprinting or Striding - Short, fast runs down relatively gentle slopes to generate quick leg turnover

Longer Stamina Routines Up Hills - Longer, medium paced demanding runs up long moderately steep hills to promote strength and endurance.

Rectangular Hills - This is similar to stamina hills but the route pattern is designed to allow much less recovery between the up hill sessions. It involves a series of runs in a rectangular pattern - up hill, across the slope, downhill, across he slope to return to the starting position.

Stamina Hills are the most common workout used by most distance runners. However many runners feel that this interval routine allows too much time between repetitions or the available hills may be too long for a sustained effort. If you climb up a long hill by running hard and jog down it, then you are going to be spending an equal amount of time working hard and resting. This is generally regarded as too much rest, with the ideal routine having the recovery period only half as long as the work period. This can be done using a Rectangular Hills routine

Rectangular Hills - How is this Done?

Find a small hill or incline that generally takes you about a 1-2 minutes to climb.

Run hard for about 30 seconds to the base of the hill. Then run up the hill. Next run along the top of the hill for about 30 seconds and then jog down the hill to your starting position. The entire rectangular circuit or interval should involve about one minute of hill climbing and one minute running downhill, in a series of reps with about a 90 second recovery period. 

If you can't find a hill that takes 1 to 2 minutes to climb, you can simply only climb part way to the top and then along the slope. The times and distances can also be extended to a series of hills, including sand hills to provide more interest.

A Rectangular Hills workout should be expanded with several runs around the rectangle. The total workout should be about 25 - 65 minutes in duration. A typical session could involve:

Adding about 5 minutes to the hill circuits each per week, would mean that you reach about 60 minutes of hill workout in 7 weeks. At this stage the workout would include:

Frequently Asked Questions about Hill Training

How do you incorporate hill running into training programs?

When Should you Avoid or Stop Hill Training?

How often should you train on hills?

Generally the frequency is once or twice a week for the more exhausting sessions. Lighter sessions can be done every second day. Many runners have a special route that includes hills, that they run once or twice a week.

Should the hill slope be steep or gentle?

Obviously you may not have much choice, but try to find a hill that you can climb in about 90 seconds that will create some 'burn' in your legs and will really get your heart pounding. Avoid really steep inclines that force you out of a normal stride pattern. Hills with grass, gravel or dirt surfaces are preferred especially for the down hill runs. Stairs can be a special challenge. Soft sand can also be very demanding.

What about choosing routes with hills for every day runs?

This is a very good idea, especially if the race you are training for has hills. If the race course is very hilly you may want to train on hilly training tracks 2-3 times a week.

What changes in stride length and running form are required for running up and down hills?

Running up and down hills requires changes to your running technique. Regard the hill as an interval demanding increase effort and speed.

The changes required for climbing up the hill are:

The changes required for running down hills are:





Uphill running is a form of interval training and helps build aerobic endurance, VOmax and the pace at which you can run comfortably
Uphill running is a form of interval training and helps build aerobic endurance, VO max and the pace at which you can run comfortably. Source: Public Domain
Running up hills with friends helps to ease the extra stress and demands on the body.
Running up hills with friends helps to ease the extra stress and demands on the body.. Source: Public Domain
Uphill running provides and extra challenge that many people enjoy, especially in the right conditions
Uphill running provides and extra challenge that many people enjoy, especially in the right conditions. Source: Public Domain
Changes in how muscles work when running up hills
Changes in how muscles work when running up hills. Source: Public Domain
Beware that downhill can be very tough on your knees and leg muscles, despite the wonderful view.
Beware that downhill can be very tough on your knees and leg muscles, despite the wonderful view. Source: Public Domain
Correct form for downhill running. See the image.
Correct form for downhill running. See the image. Source: Public Domain
The beach is a great place to train and build your aerobic fitness
The beach is a great place to train and build your aerobic fitness. Source: Public Domain
Pace schedule examples using various criteria
Pace schedule examples using various criteria. Source: Public Domain
Being able to engage in a conversation is a good guide to an easy running pace
Being able to engage in a conversation is a good guide to an easy running pace. Source: Public Domain
12 Week Marathon Training Plan with Paces and Interval plan suggestions
12 Week Marathon Training Plan with Paces and Interval plan suggestions. Source: Public Domain
How the ability to consume oxygen varies with age
How the ability to consume oxygen varies with age   Source: Public Domain CC0