Hill running can hurt, and while you may want to avoid them, it’s important to incorporate hills into your regular training schedule. On her YouTube channel, triathlete-turned-marathoner Gwen Jorgensen takes viewers through “a staple workout for the Bowerman Track Club,” which involves hill repeats followed by a fast session on the track. The keys to this workout? Focusing on your form and ignoring everything else, including your watch and anyone running with you.
Part 1: the hills
Jorgensen says the length of hill reps can vary from session to session, but they stick to a mix of 200s, 400s and 600s. On the day of filming, she and the Bowerman crew ran a 40-minute warmup and followed it up with 3 x 200m, 3 x 400m, 3 x 200m, all uphill. If you don’t have time for a 40-minute warmup, or if you think that on its own would tire you out too much ahead of the main set, feel free to cut it down (but still be sure to warm up for at least 10 to 15 minutes before hitting the hills).
Jorgensen says her coach, Jerry Schumacher, tells the crew the same thing every week: “This is all about form. It is not a race.” To avoid any chance of mid-workout racing, Schumacher sends runners up the hill one at a time. Jorgensen adds that she doesn’t time these reps, either, which allows her to focus on her form as she drives up the hill. If you try this workout, be sure to measure the distances beforehand so you can eliminate any guesswork or the need to constantly check your watch. Schumacher marks the hill with pylons every 200m, but you can also make mental notes of certain objects (like a tree or lamp post) to signal your turnaround point.
Part 2: the track
After completing their hills for the day, the Bowerman Babes head over to the track for some flat speed work. On this particular day, they ran 8 x 200m with a short recovery between reps. Again, it’s important to focus on technique here, and while you want to power through each repetition, don’t sacrifice your form to save a second or two. When you’re finished on the track, be sure to take a few minutes (around 15, just like the warmup) to cool down.
Making your own workout
If a mile of hill repeats followed by a mile of sprints on the track sounds like too much for you, don’t be afraid to pare the workout down a bit. As long as you spend time on both the hills and track, you’ll eventually start to see improvements in your other workouts. Plus, if you make this a regular session, you can always lengthen it and add more reps as you get stronger.