5 Essential Hill Workouts That Make You Faster

My name is Coach Jenny, and I love hills (maybe a little too much). It's true: If there is a fork in the road, I'll always take the hilly one because it demands my attention, develops my cardiovascular and muscular system, and mixes up the wear pattern on my body.

That said, I'll be honest with you, I used to hate hills too. My love actually arose from a mountain climbing expedition up Mount Rainier. The guide taught us to "be the mountain" and to work with it rather than against it. As Zen as it sounds, it worked! It took us two days to reach the summit and only a half-day to come back down.

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The key was learning that hills are vertical challenges like mountains, and you need a strategy to run them efficiently. Once I applied my mountain climbing flow to hills, my running life changed. There was no hill too big or small that I couldn't navigate efficiently.

In order to tap into hill love, you've got to first learn to make friends with hills and run them wisely. From there, hills will become a newfound joy in your running life. Here are five of my favorite hill workouts. It's best to sprinkle them into your running routine one to two times per week.

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Green Hill Repeats

These are green because this workout is all about learning how to run hills efficiently, like we did climbing that mountain.

The Mission: To learn to run hills efficiently--easy on the way up and faster on the way down, working with the flow of terrain and making friends with hills.

  • Warm up with walking and easy running for 10 minutes.
  • Run 10-15 minutes of hill repeats. It's best to find a hill or bridge where it takes you at least one minute to run.
  • Rather than trying to conquer the hill by running it hard or trying to maintain a certain pace, run it by effort and keep it at an easy to moderate effort, where you can just hear your breathing (not hard).
  • When you reach the top of the hill you should feel challenged but not spent or winded (or swearing). This is the key, as you'll be fresh enough to take advantage of the downhill.
  • Run downhill focusing on letting go, opening your stride slightly, striking the ground lightly with your feet just behind your hips (rather than under), and letting the hill pull you down. Again, this shouldn't be run at a fast speed; be cautious, as downhill running increases the impact forces on the body.
  • Repeat this for 10-15 minutes and cool down running 10 minutes.

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