Hills Are My Friend

If you are like me, then you know that hills suck when you are doing them.  But they pay dividends on race day.

Photo Courtesy of Michelle

My target race this spring is the NJ Marathon. Even though it’s a pancake flat course, I am incorporating some hill-specific workouts as well as general hill training into my training plan. Knowing that I’ve done hill training is a huge mental boost for me when I’m racing. I feel stronger knowing I’ve done those hill repeats.

Photo courtesy of Sarah OUaL - sarahoual.com

There are a few ways that I incorporate some hill work into my training:

- Choose the route with hills.  If you have the choice between a totally flat course and one with some rolling hills (during training runs), go for the hills.  Your splits won’t be as fast, but it will pay off in the end.  I was confronted with this choice the last two Saturdays on my 12 and 14 mile runs.  If I run south from where I live, it’s almost entirely flat.  I decided to run north which has three back-to-back hills that would each rival cat hill in central park.

- Do mini-hill workouts in the middle of your run.  Working on hills doesn’t always have to be a stand-alone workout.  Do hill repeats if there is a good-sized hill on your run.  When I was training for Boston in 2008/2009, I was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq.  I knew I needed to do some hill work because of Boston’s course – but the entire base was totally flat – with the exception of one hill (all of the signal/radar equipment was kept on this man-made hill).  It was .3 miles up.  I would often run up and down it 2-3x times in a row in the middle or towards the end of my daily runs.

- Dedicate one training day/week to hills.  Hill days are probably my least favorite day of the week. I have a handful of workouts that I do – some on the treadmill and others when I am outside.

I normally do a warm-up and cool-down of one mile each on a flat route, GP = Goal Pace, RP = Recovery Pace

Do you do hill workouts?  Do you like them?

Do you have any hill workouts you do? Please share! I’m always looking for new workouts! 

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    1. Jason A.W. Lewis says:

      Great article! I live in Waco, Texas and love training for my runs in, “Cameron Park.” Seriously, for all you half-marathon runners, The Bearathon is one race you’ll never forget. I’ve attached a link below showing the elevation of the race course! Good Luck! http://www.baylor.edu/student_foundation/index.php?id=53284

    2. Rosebriars says:

      I have yet to do planned hill repeats but I live in a very hilly area and find myself throwing in extra hills on a whim. There’s one hill I do occasionally that’s a 30% grade. There’s also a set of stairs in one neighborhood that I often run/ jog/trudge up. We’re moving to a very flat place in a few months and I will miss my beautiful hills.

    3. Um… okay, you are awesome. I run hills all the time, but only because they’re on my path around my house. I should try once of your workouts rather than just trotting up it like normal. Beavis.
      STUFT Mama recently posted..I Guess I Like the Wrapstar and the Easiest Stir Fry EverMy Profile

    4. Wow!!! I just read your “about me” page for the first time!! You rock in so many ways!!
      1. You are a MOM!!!
      2. You have served our country!!!
      3. Runner extrodinaire!!!!!
      4. You live in TEXAS!!!

      Plus, I do love a good hill work-out!!!
      Km recently posted..Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup for my Sick BoyMy Profile

    5. I have learned to embrace the hills. I used to HATE them but now I appreciate them and how they help me build strength. Now, every time I run up a hill, I remind myself that this is making me stronger. Hill training definitely helped when I ran NYCM so many years ago. Thanks for sharing these workouts!
      Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Friday Round-Up: How did I get here?My Profile

    6. Ha ha so true! I HATE hill workouts BUT like you I know they make me a stronger runner. I just started incorporating a dedicated hill day into my Boston Marathon routine. My neighborhood only has teeny hills/inclines so I take myself to the battlefield and run up and down monster hills. I’m rewarded with great views at the top, even though I feel like I’m having a heart attack. Thanks for sharing the workouts.
      Alison @ racingtales recently posted..I Feel it in my Fingers, I Feel it in my Toes…Raynaud’s DiseaseMy Profile

    7. When is the marathon in NJ?
      Blogging Runner recently posted..I Live In Exercise ClothesMy Profile

    8. Hill workouts are demanding, that’s for sure… as of right now I haven’t done any runs focused on hills, but I do what you suggested first – choose the route with a hill or two. This is very easy to do in Flagstaff! Thanks for posting the other ideas, too!
      Stephanie@nowirun.com recently posted..Lunch Date!My Profile

    9. YOU are my friend – this is just what I need today as I head out for my session of hill repeats – thank you!
      It will be my first time in ages I have done them, and I am looking forward to it, but with an inkling of dread! Mine are simply 8 x run 1 min up, jog down. I know when I used to do them they made a noticeable improvement in a relatively short time – just what I need!
      Sherry recently posted..Next Up – The Tussock TraverseMy Profile

      • I hope today’s hill repeats went well! YES! Hills seriously make us all so much stronger. I try not to pay attention to my pace during hill repeats – but I’m always amazed at how fast I feel I am running when I do my cooldown on flat ground!! Have a wonderful weekend!

    10. there are massive hills out here in the hill country. I like the burn. Am i weird?
      lindsay recently posted..Dear Abby Friday & Chocolate Rum MacaroonsMy Profile

    11. Thanks for posting the hill workouts! I’ve pinned it to my running board so I can remember the workout after my pregnancy is over. We just got a treadmill not too long ago so I’m always looking for some good treadmill workouts. :)
      Angie recently posted..Inspiration or Nesting?My Profile

    12. I STILL go back to your old post about embracing the pain as I grumble through my hills ;)

      Thanks for posting these, with the hubs lacking motivation unless I go to the gym with him, I’ve had to do most of my running on the ‘mill and have been guesstimating what a “good” incline/distance would be to run with, and you listed some great options that don’t make me feel like I’m short changing myself.
      Melissa @ Melissa Running It recently posted..Be a Goal GetterMy Profile

    13. Thanks Michele for this post – definitely bookmarking it! I am terrified of hills at this point – I’ve run on nothing but flat as a board s.FL… There aren’t too many hills around this area. I think the most elevation I’ve gone up is 150ft (over half a mile). Definitely going to have to make a drive north to get in some actual hill training for MCM. Or resort to the treadmill…Spin class is about the closest I come to hills/resistance.
      beka @ rebecca roams recently posted..A Return to Friday LettersMy Profile

    14. A majority of my running is loops around Central Park, back and forth and in all directions around. I am no longer afraid of hills and think a completely flat course takes a toll on my body. I definitely plan on incorporating repeats of the Harlem Hills this training cycle! It will be a welcome/new addition to my running.
      Ashley @ Running Bun recently posted..I Decided to get a Running CoachMy Profile

    15. I love hill work and I generally do it about once a week, I think I’m an exception to most runners but I find this works well for me. I liked all the new hill workout ideas! Thanks for sharing.
      Lauren @ The Unlikely Runners recently posted..The One With Friday’s LettersMy Profile

    16. Oh man, I HATE running hills but I try to fit them in at least once a week regardless! Most races I do are in Seattle which is quite the hill-tastic city so putting the time into build up my hillpower (hahaha I’m on a roll with the puns) always pays off!
      Rachel B @ Busy Mama Fitness recently posted..Body Beast Journal: I SuckMy Profile

    17. I find my body is happier when I substitute hills in for speedwork. And I run faster, too. Win-Win.
      MILF Runner recently posted..So where’s all my free shit?My Profile

    18. Ugh hills, so good for you but so not fun to do. I have a love hate relationship with them…hate them when I’m running them but love the benefit I get form them. I like running hills on trails because at least I have some nice scenery to distract me
      Amanda recently posted..Physical Therapy FunMy Profile

    19. I can’t wait until I’m fully back running because there is a group who runs once a week in a super hilly neighborhood –like straight up and down– and runners I know swear by it for getting faster. There are little hills everywhere, even flat as a pancake Long Island.
      Jackie@ MuscleUpMom recently posted..Workouts and BlowoutsMy Profile

    20. I hate hills, but I don’t stay away from them because I know they make you stronger! Definitely doing hills this time around for Vermont =)
      Steph recently posted..The 2 Year Plan?My Profile

    21. My whole neighborhood is hills so I cannot avoid them. But they have helped tremendously. I feel strong when I run and the hills that were once really hard are now pretty easy!
      Natalie recently posted..It only took 10 days…My Profile

      • When I first moved into my new home about 6 months ago, I was bummed that I was leaving the boardwalk and the ability to run flat every day. But I have learned to embrace the hills for what they are – they have already made me so much stronger! And it really helps come race day when you are faced with a hill!

    22. I run almost exclusively in Central Park so I’m no stranger to hills – I’ve come to enjoy running them along my route but I very rarely do hill repeats. Now that I’m training for the NYC Half in March I think I’m going to add in more hill training. I’m running a pancake flat race next weekend though, it will be interesting to see how that feels compared to what I’m used to!

      • What race are you running next weekend???? I am so jealous that you get to run in CP all the time. When I lived on the UWS, about 80% of my runs were there and I was SO strong on hills!! I have to really make a concerted effort do do hills down here in SI =)

        • I’m running the St. Pete Beach half in Florida – we’re visiting friends and decided to run a local race. It will be my first half since my pregnancy so I’m really looking forward to it!

    23. I live in the hills and can not escape them! When we first moved here, I would get to the point where I just needed a break from them, but I have become stronger, I know longer have knee and hip pain… I am slowly adapting. :)
      Lisa @ RunWiki recently posted..Kyle’s Krusade Virtual 5K, 10K and Half MarathonMy Profile

      • When I lived in Texas, it was seriously all hills. I thought texas was flat but apparently I was wrong =) There were times I would just be so frustrated b/c all I wanted was a nice and easy run…but you become stronger and a better runner b/c of it! =)

    24. Thanks for sharing all of these! It is pancake flat around here, and I’ve been avoiding the treadmill, so I get very little hill training in. But I do incorporate a lot of climbing in my spin classes and know that my quads are stronger for it. The Houston marathon is mostly flat so I should be alright. In the future, I do want to incorporate more hills in my training!
      Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Houston Marathon Plans and GoalsMy Profile

    25. Great workouts you have listed! And I agree, hills are such a great tool and every runner should do them. I am lucky to live in an area with plenty of hill options. My Thurs. group run (7 mile loop) is seriously non-stop hills. Yesterday I ran it easy and then on the last hill, did six repeats. Hate it but love the results!
      misszippy1 recently posted..I run in BoulderMy Profile

      • The repeats within a run are my favorite way to incorporate them. Most of them they are totally unplanned – I’ll run up a hill and then decide, what the heck and do it a few more times for good measure. LOL. =)

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