Build Strength and Increase Speed With Hill Running Workouts

Want to spice up your workouts and add to your overall strength? If so, then hill training is your friend.

Hill training can be a great substitute for intense track workouts. Running hills can strengthen your overall physical condition and help maximize your aerobic conditioning.

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Hill training is nothing new. Renowned New Zealand athletics coach Arthur Lydiard, who coached Olympic distance runner Peter Snell to two gold medals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, was an early advocate of hill training.

His groundbreaking method consists of three stages. Stage one is the base stage consisting mostly of long endurance training.

Stage two is the strength stage consisting of hill training. Stage three is the speed stage consisting of track work. The three combined stages are known as the periodization method.

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In his book Running to the Top, Lydiard outlines the hill training method that he used to train several Olympic medal winners. The workout consists of a number of repetitions or reps over a hill of about 300 meters. Each rep is broken down into various distances. For example, a rep may consist of one-third of the hill followed by running two-thirds of the hill then going all the way to the top. In Lydiard's workout, each rep would be followed by a wind sprint of 100 meters at near 100 percent speed. The number of reps completed depends on an athlete's fitness level.

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The distance covered in a rep depends on the event you are training for and your individual strengths and weaknesses. Generally if you are training for longer distances, you should concentrate on longer reps over steeper hills. If you are training for shorter distances such as a 5K, shorter reps over a moderately steep hill are best.

More: How to Use Hills to Your Advantage on Race Day

Hill training does not have to be performed outdoors. Jack Daniels, renowned author of the Book The Running Formula, recommends doing hill training on a treadmill. He reasons that this way you can eliminate the impact typically associated with downhill running.

More: Challenge Yourself With Treadmill Hill Workouts

However all hills have two sides, and there are instances when you will want to run your hill reps downhill. Talk to any Boston Marathon runner and you will likely hear stories of the first "quad pounding" 17 miles. This section of the Boston Marathon is mostly downhill. Legs unconditioned for downhill running usually take a beating during this part of the course. One way to minimize the effects of downhill running is to design workouts that simulate this type of running.

More: 6 Tips to Improve Your Downhill Runs

For good Boston Marathon training, find a gentle hill that is approximately 1 mile long. Start at the top and run to the bottom at your usual 10K pace. The number or repeats will depend on your fitness level. For a marathon, five repeats are usually a good goal. Repeating this workout several times prior to running a downhill marathon can help condition your legs for the stress they will endure during the race.

Used correctly, hill training can be very beneficial to your weekly workout regimen. So when you approach that monster hill during your training, just remember that hills are your friends.

More: 4 Tips to Make Hillwork Fun

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Dave Camire is an avid runner and the founder of

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