5K running, training and racing: Hill run for strength!

Distance runners gain muscle strength, stronger hearts and better knee lift with hill repeats. Author and 15 minute 5K runner shows you how to bring this muscle strengthener into your 5k running schedule.
Develop the neurological pathways needed for fast running with hill training. Middle distance runners need strength and legspeed from hill repeats. 5k runners should be doing some form of resistance training--running hills is the simplest form of resistance training.

All runners need strength to run fast. You can run hills reps as a group--slower runners can do a shorter section of the hill, but jog or walk down with the group. Hills are great for a maximum heartrate test. Hills give you a chance to train at 3k or 2 mile intensity if you wish: You will experience less joint and muscle pounding...provided you make the effort to land softly. Hill training gets you up on your toes--well, the forefoot, anyway. Hills running gives an excellent return for your training time.

How steep should the hill be? How long should the reps be? A marathon runner might use a 3 percent grade, running long hill reps. Half marathon--600-800 meters at 4 percent. 10k--try 60-75 second hills at 5-6 percent grade. 5k and below will probably run 30-45 seconds up a steeper grade. But all runners should run a variety of hills. Use two or three different hills for your training.

A sample from "Running Dialogue"

“You already cope with hills within training runs, so the first type of resistance training is to augment the hilly circuit once a fortnight with hill repetitions. Find a hill which is reasonably steep, but still runable...three to four degrees is good, but steeper hills may give you faster rewards. You will need 100 to 400 meters of hill for these ses¬ sions. “For this session, ignore the efficient way of running hills. Hill reps require a different action...an exaggerated running action; though inefficient in a race, it’s perfect for our present purposes. Use a 100 meter section for your first session. “After a normal warmup, you can start the first of about ten repetitions. Run up the hill with a high knee lift and sprinters type arm action. The legs should not be going too fast...the emphasis is on lifting the knees higher than in normal runs...but landing softly. Land closer to your toes than the heel of the foot...midfoot is ideal. You will run more like a sprinter in these sessions than at any other time. “On alternate reps, shorten and quicken the stride. One rep for strength and speed; one rep for speed and strength. “Pick a focal point close to the top of the hill, much further than your usual 25 meters ahead. This helps to prevent you leaning for¬ ward. You need to be perpendicular to the surface in hill repeats. “Walk down the hill for recovery and repeat the run. When you feel tired, or cannot fully recover in the rest period, stop. This be¬ comes the target number for future sessions. “Hold back on the first session. Hill training puts extra stress on the Achilles tendon and calf muscles. The quadriceps may also ache a little after, as may your back...gentle stretching should clear these aches. “The second time you run hills, try about eight repetitions of 200 meters. The third time, run five at up to 400 meters. “With the 400s, finish the rep just over the top of the hill--practice accelerating as the gradient decreases. “As you get used to running hill repetitions, you can increase the quantity of reps and the speed. Always aim to run hills faster than in a race. “The number of repetitions is up to you, but the overall effort involved should be no harder than a session of long repetitions would be. You may find that running 25 of the short section of hill is about right; 10 or 12 of the long section may be its equivalent. These are only targets for the long term. For now, build the session up until it lasts thirty minutes--including the recovery sections. Aim to run 10 minutes of reps. “Land gently on the way down. “When you can handle hills well in training, they will seldom be a problem in races. In a race or tempo run, always run them with economy ...using a low knee lift and short but fairly rapid stride. Tuck in behind someone, get ‘pulled’ up the hill, then find that other gear you’ve been practicing as you accelerate over the top. “Hills will improve your racing speed by building strength in the quads, hamstrings, buttocks, calves and back. It will also correct your form--you can’t run hills well with bad form. Hills increase your anaerobic efficiency. Bigger quads result in fewer knee injuries. Hill reps cause few injuries...there is much less shock per stride.” “Enjoy the hill. Always enjoy the hill. Don’t fight it...work with it. Just remember to exaggerate the knee lift and the arm swing, while pushing off with the toes and calf muscles.

Note: You could just as easily argue that the marathon runner will do short hills to work on knee lift to counteract those long steady runs; and that the 5k runner could run long hills up low grades because they are likely to have a naturally good knee lift already. A mixture of both hill types is probably best.


Hill reps on the treadmill.
Marathon down to 5K at www.runningbook.com
40 mile per week schedule for intermediate runners

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Sarcomere--muscle contraction unit
5k training & racing: ONE...Running for distance
40 mile per week training schedule during fartlek running
Recreational runner...15-25 week training schedule for low mileage 5k running
"Running Dialogue" table of contents
Distance training links

Book Ordering Information
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E-MAIL ORDER TO DAVID HOLT
Copyright David Holt 1998. Other authors are reluctant to allow their material to be used. Any part of this 5k training material can be quoted, but please acknowledge the source...10K & 5K Running, Training and Racing: The Running Pyramid, and Running Dialogue, by David Holt, and contact information.