Thursday, March 17, 2016

Want to get better, faster, stronger running? Go up hill

It is conventional wisdom among runners and coaches that hill work makes you faster and stronger.  The problem is, most often, runners do not understand what this means and how to do it.  Also, like your least favorite exercise at the gym, a lot of runners avoid hills or say they stink on hills.  That's simply because of the pain and lack of experience.  Here are three key hill workouts and how to do them.  I took them from the authority on running, Runner's World.  

1: Long Hill Runs
The long run is a staple of every distance runner's training arsenal. That's because our slow-twitch fibers require lower-intensity, longer-duration workloads to achieve maximum endurance. Adding a long hill (or hills) to this run results in several benefits:
  • Increases the percentage of slow-twitch fiber recruited
  • Creates extra resistance, strengthening our fibers
  • Increases ankle flexibility, improving our stride
  • Reduces neural inhibition, improving coordination between muscle groups
  • Recruits intermediate fibers, improving coordination between fiber types
We begin by incorporating a half-mile to a mile of moderately steep uphill into our long run every second or third week. As our fitness improves, we can increase the total volume of uphill in our runs to 2–3 miles. The effort level for these runs should be comfortably aerobic. Running too hard won't give us a better workout. It will only decrease our volume of hill work, while increasing the time it takes to recover.

2: Long Hill Repeats
Two-time Olympic 1500m gold medalist Seb Coe maintained his off-season fitness by running circuits on a bicycle path that included an 800m hill section: 400m of steady uphill, 100m of level recovery, 250m of steep uphill and, finally, 50m of slight downhill.
"[Hill circuits are] an excellent means for improving both aerobic and anaerobic power," wrote Seb's father and coach, Peter Coe (with David Martin) in Better Training for Distance Runners. "Every serious distance runner should have one of these courses available for use when a hill session comes due on the schedule."
Long hill repeats force us to climb the muscle fiber ladder. The power required to run fast up a long hill (6 to 7 percent grade) recruits our intermediate fibers, as well as all available slow-twitch fibers. A typical weekly progression of long hill-repeat sessions might be:

4-8 × 30 seconds, 2-3 minutes rest
4-8 × 60 seconds, 3-4 minutes rest
4-6 × 90 seconds, 4-5 minutes rest
As to pace, a simple rule of thumb is to finish every repetition workout with just enough gas in the tank to run one or two more repeats if the workout called for it.
3: Short Hill Repeats
NFL legend Walter Payton made short hill sprints synonymous with off-season football conditioning. But this workout also achieves two training objectives for distance runners:
  • Strengthens all three types of muscle fiber
  • Reduces neuromuscular inhibition
Sprinting up a steep hill at 90 to 95 percent maximum effort recruits the fullest range of fibers possible. It also demands the widest range of motion from our stride. To accomplish this motion, opposing muscle groups learn "reduced inhibition." Just as we relax the triceps muscle on the back of our arm when flexing our biceps, so our hamstrings and quadriceps must learn to coordinate contraction and relaxation. The result is a smoother, longer, faster stride.

Start with four or five reps of 30–60m (5–10 seconds) up a steep hill, then build up over a few sessions to eight to 12 reps. For recovery, walk back down the hill and wait until 2–3 minutes have passed.
There are other workouts for hill training, but I really like the three listed below.  Also, keep in mind good running form while on the hill.  It is important to not lean to far forward or backwards.  Also, shorten and quicken your stride.  Finally, I like to focus on centering my hips and really making sure they are under my upper body.  Good luck and kick that hill's ass!

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