Hill Sprints

For some further insight into training for the Surfcoast Century it is worth picking apart the individual sessions. Of course, single sessions don't make the program, in a total is greater than the sum of all it's parts, kind of way. How everything comes together over the weeks is more important. That said, the devil is in the details. I'll start by looking at the Hill Sprint session. Since I am preparing for a 100km race, sprints might seem far removed and even irrelevant to some. After all, how is sprinting as fast as you can related to the slow pace and different mechanics of an ultramarathon?

Hill Sprints will make a weekly appearance. After a thorough warm up, which will likely include some mobility work I hit the main set. For this I pick a hill that's at least a 10% grade, but preferably steeper. The surface will vary weekly as I will pick a different location. Each repeat will cover roughly 70-200m for 8-12 repeats. Recovery will be some very easy jogging, for however long it takes me to feel right to complete the next repeat. Each repeat needs to be a maximal effort. Aggression is needed, with no thought to pacing.

The main benefits is that the higher threshold muscle fibers, type II, are recruited and trained. To recruit as many fibers as possible a maximal effort is required. At the lower intensities of most endurance training these fibers aren't recruited much, but are often required in the final stages of a race as the lower threshold muscle fibers fatigue. Of course the recovery required from such races is often extensive. Hill sprints doesn't required extended recovery periods.

Added bonuses of hill sprinting include extended ranges of motion, high knee lift, full legs and ankle extension. The core stabilising musculature gets challenged. There is a stretch load on the connective tissues that hopefully enhances their strength and elasticity.

While the the session isn't primarily directed at improving up hill running, it should definitely help. There may even be some improvement in my sprinting abilities. At least for an endurance runner.

Then of course is the cumulation of all of the above. When I include this type of session on a regular basis the rest of my running just feels better. I may not be noticeably faster, but almost all other running feels more natural. My legs tend to feel freer, the general tightness from long runs dissipates, my posture feels better and is easier to maintain. That counts for a lot.


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