Type of hill workouts and how these can help your running

Many runners hate hills – because if you don’t train on them regularly, they suck all of your energy out and leave you feeling lethargic and drained possibly even before you reach the top.

However if you practise on hills on a regular basis, and train sufficiently with them, then you will start to see the benefits – and at the same time you will be running faster and more efficiently especially on flat ground.

Hill workouts will improve your running. [Photo from www.metrx.com]

Hill workouts will improve your running.
[Photo from www.metrx.com]

Though Singapore is largely flat, there are a few places in Singapore that you can find some form of hills. For example, Bukit Timah Hill and MacRitchie Reservoir for trail-like terrain with hills, as well the infamous Marina Barrage slope, for hill intervals on concrete terrain. But if there are no hills near your place or if it is not convenient to get to them, then a treadmill set to an incline of about six to eight per cent gradient, will also suffice.

If you want to train on hills to help your running, then here are some types of hill workouts that you should use in your everyday training routines.

1. Easy hill repeats

This type of workout maximises your efficiency of running hills, by going slow and steady on the way up and faster on the way down. Base your running on your heart rate and effort, rather than focusing on speed. Try to maintain a steady heart rate throughout the workout. You should not be going out hard. And when you reach the top of the hill, you should be breathing harder than usual, but still steadily – and not completely out of breath.

Then when you run down the hill, let the momentum and gravity guide you and let yourself flow with it. This may take practice as many first-timers may be afraid of falling down the hill but if you keep at it, you will soon grow used to propelling yourself down using gravity.

Repeat this for roughly ten to fifteen minutes.

2. Hard Hill Repeats

This is, as the name suggests, hard hill workouts. You should be focusing on running up the hill as fast as you can tolerate, with your heart rate as high as you can manage. Preferably this should be about 80 per cent of your maximum heart rate.

Upon reaching the top of the hill, you should be feeling winded and needing to catch your breath. Use the downhills to recover and walk or jog down these very slowly, for recovery.

Repeat this for about ten to fifteen minutes, but if you are getting fitter and feel that you can manage more, you can increase the duration it to about 25 minutes.

3. Backwards Hill Running

This type of hill workout is great to get your quads activated – though you may have to get used to people staring at you as if you’re crazy!

If you are not used to going backwards, start with a very slow and easy pace, even walking up the hill is fine. This should be preferably done after an easy run. Repeat this about four to six times, and your quad muscles will be begging for mercy. Doing this regularly will strengthen your quads and help you to run faster and more efficiency downhill.

4. Stair Climbing

Stairs helps when there's no hills around. [Photo from www.momtastic.com]

Stairs helps when there’s no hills around.
[Photo from www.momtastic.com]

If you live in a place with absolutely zero hills, stair climbing workouts are great. They will improve your legs muscles and strength of your glutes.

Choose a flight of stairs where you need about three minutes to climb up, this can be at your HDB block, home apartment or office. When you climb, focus on your stride and use your glutes – to do this, makes sure that the entire foot is on the step, and not just brushing the tip of each step.

5. Tempo hill runs

Workouts that focus on building strength and endurance, these are long hill repeats of about 25 to 30 minutes with a 10-minute easy cooling down session and should be done at an effort whereby you are breathing hard, but not feeling completely winded.

Each hill climb should be about three to five minutes long and you can allow yourself 30 seconds to one minute to catch your breath after each climb before jogging down the hill – depending on how seasoned you are.

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