Here come the hills...
The arrival of winter also means something in training arrives, and that is hills. Like Marmite, some people love them and some people hate them, or if you’re like me, you defy expectation and think Marmite is ‘alright’. However, unlike my like for Marmite, I love hills!
I bet you’re thinking, how could someone enjoy running numerous times up a very steep hill? Sounds crazy to me too when you say it out loud, but I really do enjoy hill sessions. I think the main reason is the refreshing change to training hills brings. Throughout the summer it’s constantly about speed in sessions, so to finally have a different focus and instead work on strength up the hills, is much needed.
So, why do we do hills?
There are may benefits of hill sessions, including the fact that we have to train on them if we are going to race on them. It is very rare, although it does happen, that you are faced with a cross country race where the course is flat. At times, when walking the course, you may feel relieved to see no major hills, but the majority of the time, there is always one steep killer of a hill hidden around the next bend. That is why I always walk the course and leave no corner unwalked. Although it's the hills and mud that makes cross country fun, right? It’s the brutality of hills that means you have to push yourself to your limits in ways other than as fast as you can! Whilst you do have to go as fast as you can up the hill, you need have the strength and power to do that.
That brings me nicely on to my next point. Strength! Hill training is a brilliant form of strength training. The power required to drive yourself up the hill using your glutes is huge. It takes doing hills for a long time before I finally wake up the next day and my bum isn’t super sore from the session. It also acts as a form of resistance training, as your glutes, calves, quads, and hamstrings are all having to work extra hard, compared to when running on a flat surface.
Not only do hills strengthen your legs, but they also strengthen your cardiovascular system. The harder your body is made to work, the harder and faster you have to breathe to get enough oxygen into your system. It is frequently easier to work hard (if that’s possible ;)!) when running uphill as there is nowhere to hide. Whilst on flat grass reps you can slow down to make them easier without meaning to, when you are half way up a hill it is easier to keep going and get to the top rather than slow down, because slowing down only makes the hill last longer! Therefore, you can easily push your lungs and heart to work harder.
Hill training is also massively beneficial when racing on the flat. This is because the effort, strength, and power needed to drive up 100m of steep hill is considerable higher than that needed to run 100m on flat ground. If you train your body to get used to training on hills and running over inclines, all of a sudden, when you are taken to the flat, it seems a whole lot easier to go faster.
But, don’t forget about the downhill! Running downhill can be beneficial for you too! It allows you to get used to disengaging your mind and allowing your body to go with the increase in acceleration you feel going down the hill. Sometimes we need to go with the flow and not push the breaks on! We need to make the most of the downhills by using them to our advantage.
Personally, I love hill sessions as it adds variation to training and forces you to work even harder in different areas. So, do you like hill training?
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I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!