You love running. You get out a few days per week, and run your regular loop of the neighborhood, and you crush it. Except lately, maybe you’re not quite crushing it. Maybe you’re doing it, but you’re not getting faster, you’re not going any farther, and you’re not necessarily feeling fitter.
The solution? Time to head for the hills!
“Hills are speedwork in disguise,” says Nike+ Run Club Coach Jes Woods. “If you’re looking to improve your speed and efficiency, or if you’re training for a race that includes some undulating terrain, you want to practice running on hills.” Plus, hill running can help improve your mechanics. “Hills force you to tap into an exaggerated running form,” says Woods. That means running tall with “a slight lean at the ankles and the chin leading the chest. Drive the knees higher than you feel like you need to, and pump the arms harder than you feel like you need to.” Also clutch, she says: “Try to remain in control of your breathing and stay light on your feet, landing on your mid-foot or forefoot.”
Up for the upward challenge? Get ready to go all the way up with these heart-pumping, sweat-inducing, legs-will-be-burning hill workouts created by Woods. (Don’t have a hill nearby? They’re treadmill-friendly, too!)
3 Hill Running Workouts to Get Faster Now
All workouts should include a five- to 10-minute easy warm-up and a five-minute easy cool-down.
10-Minute Hill Workout
“Use the first set of hills as a warm-up and settle into the grind,” says Woods. “You’re not sprinting up the first set, but 10K race pace should feel like an 8 out of 10 effort. The second set should be rocking! Short, fast, and 10 out of 10 effort.”
20-Minute Up-and-Over Workout
“This up-and-over hill workout is my favorite,” says Woods. “It’s a real race scenario. You wouldn’t run to the top of a hill and then recover in a race — you need to keep moving! This workout trains the legs and mind to continue turning over once they crest the top of the hill.”
30-Minute Ladder Hill Workout
If you’re doing this one on a treadmill, set the uphills to a 5% incline and the downhill to 0%. “When you attack the ‘downhill’ on the treadmill, give yourself 0.5 – 1.0 mph more speed once you drop the incline,” Woods says.
That said, “This rolling hill workout is best performed outdoors in order to practice the quick, short cadence needed with downhill running,” says Woods. “Downhill running is sneaky — you would think it would be less challenging, but improper downhill running form can lead to burning quads and shin splints the morning after. Don’t worry on the exact pace of the downhill — just practice actually tackling it versus using it as an easy jog or recovery.” When you hit the downhills, Woods says to quicken your cadence and stay light on your feet (“almost like you’re dancing downhill,” she says), keep your foot strike landing directly underneath you, avoid leaning backward, and engage your core for stability.