Antagonising Gravity

Hills play a big role in my run training. This is partly influenced by where I live. There are just so many good trails through the hills. The biggest influence is I have always had good results following some focused running against gravity.

How do I include hill work into my running?

Most of my runs will include at least a section of hill running if not some very steep work or even entire runs without flat sections. The exceptions are on the athletics track, on a pure recovery run, when forced onto the treadmill or performing a MAF test. In other words, running up and down hills is the majority of my run training.

Run The Hills

Most of my training is at an aerobic conditioning level. When running up ascents I focus on good, productive form. Full length strides with complete legs and ankle extension at push off, plus higher knee lift. My heart rate may climb a bit, but this is preferable to practising poor form. This way the musculature is conditioned appropriately.

This form of training also fits well into the extended threshold runs. In this case including moderate rolling hills provides a very good stimulus with the increased strength and power requirements of uphill work contrasting with the high leg speed required on the descent to keep the physiological work rate in the correct zone.

Hill Repeats

Moving onto the next level, the focus changes to completing repeats up a hill. These specific hill sessions have a designated goal and approach through the different phases of my base training.

Base 1 involved a few very short but steep runs lasting 10-20 seconds up hill, in between sets of track running at 100m and 200m intervals. These were about speed, and providing a brief, but repeatable challenge to the fat twitch fibres. Essentially it was about reminding my legs, and neuromuscular system what is was like to run fast, or with some power. The rest periods were fairly extensive.

Base 2 moved onto developing specific leg strength. This involved very steep hills that took 50-80 seconds to climb. These hills were so steep, the stride rate was quite slow, but the focus was on ensuring full leg extension and stride length was always maintained. Recovery was a walk back down the hill. Sets started as 2 x 5 x 60sec, progressed to 10x70sec and finishing with 15x80sec repeats.

Base 3 has the focus on developing power and speed. The approach may not be standard, but it involves hill repeats that take approximately 2:00-2:30 to complete of a moderate slope that steadily increasing in gradient before leveling off and dropping over a crest. To develop power the idea is maintain a constant speed (approximately 3000m pace) over the increasing slope before finishing with a very fast, sprint with high cadence over the crest. Recovery is a steady jog back to the start. All up, it is about 50 minutes worth of repeats and jog backs, plus warm and cool down.

Threshold training sees the hills move away from a standalone session. Instead it will be incorporated in the AT+ session which will be about 3x5km at or slightly above my anaerobic threshold run over a mildly undulating course that finishes with 800-900m of a steady climb.


Simple. I always run better after a good dose of regular hill training. The rest of the detail are simply ways to find reason or justifications as to why I should include the training. The concept has been, start easy, build some strength, increase the speed and power requirements then put it into a format that more closely resembles the demands of racing. Has worked in the past. Seems to be working again.


  1. I'd rather run up a hill than down one, down hurts too much.


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