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MEC Running video series: Episode 2 – Hills

Mountain Equipment Co-op in partnership with Canadian Running magazine present a six-part video series outlining basic training principles and running advice.

Mec running video series

Episode two features all you need to know about hill training–or as we like to call it speedwork in disguise.

RELATED: MEC Running video series: Episode 1 – Tempo Runs

Hill workouts combine speed and strength training while also testing one’s mental fortitude. And while it’s unlikely that your next race will feature an all-uphill course, running hills will provide race-day benefits that other workouts cannot.

Any type of hill training will force you to exercise efficient running economy–including quick leg turnover and using the arms and upper body—as well as provides a challenging cardiovascular stimulus. Hill workouts are also mentally tough to do but will feel so good once finished. Best of all, hills are relatively low risk and can help avoid injury and burnout.

Mec running video series

There are three basic types of hill training you should know about:

Hill sprints are short, intense efforts up a relatively steep hill–aim for about 10 percent grade. Run as hard as you can for 10-15 seconds up the hill before coming to a complete stop to catch your breath and walk back to the bottom before starting the next repeat. Start with four sprints and work up to ten over time. Hill sprints are a great workout to do year round at the end of a typical easy run and will keep your legs sharp and primed for speedwork.

(Up)-hill intervals or repeats last between 30 seconds and 2-3 minutes and are the most common type of training. These should be done on a hill of 5-7 percent grade and can be run at a number of paces/efforts based on your training goals. 5K and 10K runners should attempt shorter–30-60 second repeats–at a harder effort such as around 10K pace. Those training for a half- or marathon should opt for longer–one-to-three minute–repeats at or slightly faster than race pace. In all cases, a hill interval workout can be done once a week with special attention to rest and recover both before and after the session.

Running downhill repeats are far less common but can nonetheless be important practice and forces you to execute good running form.

The final type of hill training is an easy or long run done on a continuously hilly route. Choose a route that includes a variety of hills–both up and downhills–and run a hard but controlled effort without worrying about pace. For added difficulty, try to increase your effort slightly as you go up or down any hill then return to an easy/comfortable pace during the flat sections.