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Get strong: these hill intervals will make you unstoppable

You'll also increase mental stamina and endurance

Hill workouts are a staple in many runner’s schedules, and for good reason: they build strength and can translate to speed on the flats. It’s a great confidence booster in a race to effortlessly fly up a hill while others struggle and slow down around you. Hill sprints are the usual option for runners, and they’re quick and effective. Longer hill intervals can also play a pivotal role in endurance-building.

If they’re new to you, incorporate them into your training when a race is a few months away: because of the strength demand they call for, they are generally phased out closer to race day. If you’ve already completed your main race of the summer and are training for something in the fall, now is the perfect time to work on that endurance by running up that hill (see what I did there?).

John Kelly running up a hill 2022
Photo: Instagram/randomforestrunner

The basic workout

Warm up with 10-15  minutes of easy running

4 x 4-5 minutes uphill running at roughly a 10K effort, followed by a very easy run down

Cool down with 10-15 minutes of easy running

Modifications

It’s easy to tweak this workout to fit into different places in your training schedule. You can also easily adjust it if you’re new to running longer hills, or longer workouts in general. Four minutes is the ideal starting point for the long hill session, and if it sounds like a daunting amount of time to be running uphill, start with two repeats. If this workout is easy for you, lengthen your uphill intervals to 5 minutes, or add more repeats.

 

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Tips

Make sure your easy run back down to the start is very slow and gentle so that you catch your breath and recover properly.

Find the right hill: four minutes is quite a long time to be running up, so you’ll need to find a long hill with a gradual to moderate grade. You want to be able to maintain the same effort throughout the entire interval.

Go by feel–don’t worry about pace on hill intervals. Use your first few sessions on the hill to get a better idea of what a medium-hard effort feels like while running uphill.

Follow a long hill interval session with an easy or recovery day. Know that not only have you worked on your physical strength, but you’ve also tapped into that mental grit, setting yourself up to be a stronger all-around runner.