We talk a lot about the benefits of hill running, but if you live in a flat area, what are you supposed to do? Not every neighbourhood has its own version of heartbreak hill, but that doesn’t mean runners who live there can’t still simulate the benefits of hill training. If you’ve got a hilly race coming up on the calendar and nowhere to train for it, use these alternatives to be ready for it.
Become a stair master
You may not have any big hills nearby, but if you have a good set of stairs at your disposal, they make an excellent alternative. This one’s easy if you live in an apartment building, but if you have a stadium nearby with bleachers, that works too. Depending on the size of the staircase, you can simply run to the top, jog (carefully) back down and repeat, but if the staircase is particularly long, you could break it up however you like (for example: 2 minutes hard, 1 minute easy).
Hit the gym
One of the big benefits of hill training is it improves your strength and power so you can run faster and stronger on the flats. You can make similar gains in the gym as well. Mimic hill training indoors with explosive movements like box jumps, jump lunges and jump squats, and improve your ability to handle the pounding associated with downhill running by doing lots of eccentric contractions, where you’re slowing down the movement while you lengthen the muscle (as you lower yourself into a squat, as you’re jumping back down off of the box, etc.).
Add some surges to your run
Olympic gold medal winner Frank Shorter once said “hills are speedwork in disguise,” so if you don’t have a hill nearby, try adding some one-minute or 30-second surges every three or four minutes during a tempo run. This forces you to change up your gait in a similar way as if you were tackling a hill in the middle of your run.
Hop on the ‘mill
Love it or hate it, the treadmill is an excellent tool to train hills when you don’t have a hill nearby. All you have to do is crank up the incline, and you’ve got a great hill workout without going anywhere.