Don’t do Hill Workouts

Until recently I had my athletes doing a hill workout biweekly or at least every third week, in most cases.

However, this is something that I’ve backed off on in 2017 and now prescribe hill workouts even more sparingly.

For example, something I would have had a runner do in the past is 4 x 3:00 hard uphill with jogback recovery + squat jumps at the top. Before that they would have done something like 5 x 2:00 and after they would do 4 x 4:00. But now, that’s rare.

The reason is because this is not specific enough to almost all race goals!

Yes, steep hill reps are challenging, no one is doubting that. However consider that during a race you should ease up when climbing a hill of significant slope. When you do something like two or four minutes hard uphill you are generating a great amount of power, but also a great amount of lactate. 

Now I ask the question, are these best for most people who are training for big A-Goal events like the half or full marathon? I say, no.

Your ability to buffer lactate is not a large consideration for distance events since they are done well below lactate threshold. I argue instead to do such workouts on a flat surface where you can more closely mimic your form and pace during the goal event.

Running a fartlek with segments of HARD two or four minutes will have you running slightly faster than goal half/full pace, so you’ll be doing a workout far more specific to what you’ll require of your body during the event. And as we all know, doing well in the event is about developing your ability to tolerate goal pace for goal distance. 

So I have now started leaving out the hill workouts for more focused and race-specific track, fartlek, or tempo workouts. These do not induce as much fatigue so require less recovery than a hill workout and are more specific to the race.

If you do want to incorporate hill workouts into your training, I suggest doing them during the first third or 2/3rd of your race preparatory period and only every other week at the most. Start with something like 4 x 2:00 hard uphill, then do 4 x 3:00, then possibly 5 x 3:00 hard uphill. 

Note: This is discussing steep inclines that very very noticeably change your speed and form. I’m a big fan of doing tempo type runs on long and slight uphills and downhills. For example, I’ll often go out for the first half of a MOD/HARD run on a slight incline and come back on a slight downhill. 


Kyle is a running coach who works with people all over the world to help them run more consistently & be resilient to injury.

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