Hills as speedwork

by MCM Mama on July 29, 2014

Lately, I’ve been feeling slower than slow.  I’ve run so many long slow miles to build my endurance that my legs have forgotten how to turnover quickly and my mind freaks out any time my heart rate goes up.  A little voice in my head keeps saying “No, slow down! You have a lot more miles to run!” even when I don’t actually have a lot more miles to run.  Add in the humidity that takes over Virginia in the summer and I’m pretty sure that a granny with a walker could pass me on some of my runs.

So, I suggested to Patty and April that we discuss speed work in hopes that I might learn something from you all. No, I’m not kidding.


Wonder what kind of speed work I like?  Hills.


I live in a hilly area, so pretty much every run involves hills in some way.  And that’s great and will make you a stronger runner in general, but if you really want to benefit from hills, you have to truly embrace them. (And not only will it make you faster on the flat, it will make hilly races that much easier. Since I’ve never run a flat and fast race, being strong on hills is key.  Also? If you hear I’m registered for a race and you don’t like hilly races, don’t register.  ‘Cause finding hilly courses is apparently my gift.)

Some of my favorite workouts:

  • Hill repeats – moderately steep, 1-2 minutes up, with a walk or a light job down, repeating 4-6 times
  • Long hill repeats – similar to hill repeats, but the distance run and the time to recover are both longer
  • Hill sprints – just what they sound like, sprint up steeper hill for 15-20 seconds

My very favorite hill workout is specific to where I live.  A couple of miles from my house is a “U” where one side is a long and moderate hill and the other side is short and steep.  I love running down one hill and then up the other and turn around and do it again.  If I run from my house and do it twice in each direction and then run home, it’s one heck of a workout.  (Last time I did it, I had to walk home LOL).

Like any type of speed work, you need to be careful. While I personally find hills easier on my body than running intervals or other track work, hills can increase your chance of injury.  So, make sure you are listening to your body (and your doctor) if you are planning to attack some hills.

What’s your favorite speed or hill workout?

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