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Hill workouts for distance runners

Three higher-mileage hill workouts to add to your weekly rotation

Hills are a valuable part of any training program, regardless of the race distance or the time you’re aiming to run. Hill workouts provide a number of benefits to make you a stronger, faster, more efficient and mentally tougher. However, hill repeats alone can be a little low on mileage for long distance runners, so here are some ideas to lengthen your hill workouts to bump up the milage. This will help build your strength and resilience to get you through the last 10K of your marathon.

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The edited Bowerman hill workout

This is the workout that triathlete-turned-marathoner Gwen Jorgensen uses to build a big base. The Bowerman track club workout is a little high mileage for most, but here’s an edited version that’s more attainable for those of us who aren’t Olympic-calibre runners.

First, do a 10 to 15 minute warm up to wake up the legs. After that, try 3 x 200m, 3 x 400m, and 3 x 200m hill repeats. These are at no particular pace, and the idea is to focus on form and strength. Recover on your way down the hill. With intervals like these, you don’t even need to wear a watch–the workout is all about running strong and maintaining form. You want to finish at a similar pace, or faster, to what you started at.

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After their hill repeats, the Bowerman runners head to a track to do eight 200m intervals to turn their legs over. If you don’t have a track conveniently located at the bottom of the hill you’re using (most don’t), then just add some post-hill fast strides. Strides are good for a change of pace and to add a little volume to your workout.

The tempo-then-hills workout

This workout incorporates speed and strength into one neat little package. Start with your usual warm up (10 to 15 minutes), then do drills. After warm up, do 15 to 25 minutes of tempo. Your tempo length will depend on the distance you’re training for and how you’re feeling that day.

Once you’re done with the tempo, take a five-minute rest and then follow it up with eight to 10 hard hills. You want these hills to be about one minute in length. Focus on form and keeping your speed consistent throughout the climb. Finish with a short cool down.

The extremely hilly run

This is one of the most extreme versions of a hill workout, because you get no real rest with the same amount of elevation gain. If you’ve got a particularly hilly route that you enjoy doing, try it faster than usual. This won’t give you the same quick speed as repeats will, but it’ll certainly help with strength and race simulation.

This workout is really taking a page out of the trail-running book, but it works for road runners. Find a hilly loop and run it harder than usual (at around tempo pace). Try and sustain the effort for around 30 minutes straight. Be sure to also include a good warm up and cool down.

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