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Benefits of Training on Hills

Updated: Dec 30, 2019

This fall I will be racing my first ever New York City Marathon. Not only am I incredibly excited but I am going to try again to qualify for Boston. Now the NYC Marathon is not extremely hilly but there are bridges! So this summer and fall, I have been focusing on the hills baby hills!

While doing interval sessions on the hills and treadmill, I find myself getting much stronger to where I can run up hills with ease and notice a greater improvement in my endurance on flat roads. Last year while training, I implemented this regime and it proved successful clocking my fastest half marathon to date. My hope is this plan will work well for NYC.

How?? Well there are many benefits for runners when they train on hills

  1. You will burn many more calories when you raise the incline on your treadmill or run uphill. You have to do more work to get up and over a hill, therefore using more VO2 and increasing your heart rate, ultimately improving your aerobic capacity.

  2. It will teach you to pace yourself up and over hills. Many runners attack hills too hard during a race and as a consequence they go anaerobic and have to slow down considerably once the hill is over or are too exhausted they choose to walk. The best way to approach hills is to maintain the same effort going up hills as you were doing running on flats and let gravity take you on the way down, that way you don’t need to exert as much energy. By practicing this tactic in training, you can become an expert at it on race day.

  3. You will get stronger. You will build stronger leg muscles hence that sore feeling you get in your hamstrings, adductors, and abductors. It will also improve tolerance and strength for running uphill including your overall stamina. Ultimately, this will lead to more speed and faster running skills and you will notice a greater improvement in your endurance on flat roads.

So what do you recommend?

Start gradually. Don’t just immediately run up Mt. Washington. Work with your coach and create different workouts to implement into your training plan. These should include workouts with different time increments and incline percentages.

Train on a course or imitate a course with rolling hills. You can still execute all the threshold and long runs you need, but by changing your route to include a few hills, you’ll be preparing yourself to handle the hills on race day.

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