Besides getting stronger and more powerful leg and gluteal muscles, running up hills strengthens your heart and lungs, encourages better form, reduces the physical stress of impact, and helps you achieve a faster cadence. It is also mentally strengthening which is especially important in an endurance athlete. There’s plenty of reasons to incorporate hills in your running route(s), but if you want a bigger boost of the benefits, then having a hill-specific workout in your training cycle is a great idea.
Where I live, there’s plenty of great hills (a.k.a. mountains) to add a hill-repeat workout to my training cycle. After my usual warm up, I do five to eight repeats. I prefer walking down to increase my heart’s ability to recover, aid in fat burn, and save the extra quad stress of running downhill for later.
If you don’t consider yourself a “climber” there are a few tips you can try. Pretend the hill is a set of stairs – shorten your stride and pick up your knees. Instead of trying to pull yourself up the hill with lunging strides, push off the ground with your ankles. Focus on your level of effort rather than your pace. This is especially important if you have more miles ahead of you and need to conserve energy.
Another reason why I walk down is to reduce injury risk. I know that if I had perfect form it wouldn’t matter, but I don’t. When I’m doing repeats, I’m focusing on the benefits I’m getting from uphill running. I get practice running downhill in my trail runs.
When I’m racing and there’s downhill portions, I do my best to float with no extra effort pushing or slowing down. It should be a little faster than my usual pace, but again, I’m focusing on no extra effort. When I get to level ground, then I settle back into goal pace.
Duration: about 1.5 hours total (including cool down)
Frequency: once every other week