Hill Workouts Are Your Friends

Coach Paul Greer of the San Diego Track Club has been helping runners train for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & 1/2 for 20 years running! In this series, we’ll feature tips, workouts and programs, courtesy of Coach, that will help you conquer your first or 100th marathon!

These hill workouts work! Incorporate them into your running regimen to build strength.

Repeats on a Hill

Find a hill that’s a 4% to 10% grade and takes approximately 90 seconds to run. You’ll run the hill from six to ten times in the workout, depending on how far along you are in your training.

Before you run the hill, you’ll need to do a 15 to 20-minute warm-up. Once you’re well warmed up, stretch for a few minutes and follow the stretching with six 100-meter strides. When you’re running up the hill, you should shorten your stride, lift your knees and lean forward slightly. The recovery is the time required to run back down. As soon as you reach the bottom, you’ll start back up again. Finish the hill workout with an easy 20-minute jog.

Hill Circuits

Find a location where you can run a succession of hills for 45 minutes to one hour. An ideal route would be one with three to five hills that takes 30 minutes to run. You can run out for 30 minutes, then turn around and run back the same set of hills. You’ll run each hill hard, and then do an easy jog to the next one.

Hill Circuits Emphasizing Form

This can be a very difficult workout, but if you do it once every two weeks or so, you’ll reap tremendous benefits. Run the same set of hills as in the hill circuit workout above, but concentrate on running a steady pace between the hills instead of jogging. You’ll emphasize pace – not on the hill, but from hill to hill. Use the hills to concentrate on your form.

Avoid trying to run hard on the way up the hill. Instead, slow down and think about how you’re running. Then, when you crest the top of the hill, take five to fifteen quick steps off the top and get back into the steady pace you’ll maintain on the flats until you reach the next hill. The key to the success of this hill workout is that when you do it, you’ll never quite feel you’ve had a full recovery. Besides making you stronger, this workout will teach you how to effectively race hills. Too often runners will charge up a hill in a race, slow down significantly at the top, and then end up being passed because they’ve run out of gas and need to recover. Don’t let this happen to you! Do this workout regularly and you’ll blow your competition away.

Three-Minute Steady-State

This is a great workout for raising your lactate threshold velocity (the speed above which fatigue sets in quickly). Find a hill that will take you approximately 25 minutes to run from bottom to top. Using a heart rate monitor, run up the hill/mountain hard until you reach 80 – 85% of your maximum heart rate. Maintain that rate for three minutes. You’ll then do a one-minute recovery jog, still running uphill. Continue alternating three minutes hard with one minute easy until you’ve reached the top of the hill or until you’ve run for 25 minutes.

Have fun with these hill workouts! Please make sure to warm-up and cool-down before and after you do them.

About Coach Paul Greer

Coach Paul Greer is Professor in Health and Exercise Science at San Diego City College and has a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science and 32 years coaching experience. Greer ran the mile in under four minutes (3:59.79) and was a 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier at 1500 meters with a 3:39.05. In addition to teaching at San Diego City, Greer also coaches for the San Diego Track Club; the largest running club in San Diego. He works with over 500 runners and is the Director for the Rockin N Runnin full and half marathon training program preparing athletes every year for San Diego’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon & 1/2 Marathon in June. Greer’s workouts cater for runners of all ages and abilities and he provides training schedules to his athletes on an individual basis.

Coach Paul Greer was featured in The Game Changer, the debut episode of Milestones, a video series that celebrates and commemorate the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series history.