QUESTION: Just curious, when I see “hill training” listed in various training programs, yours and others, what kind of hill am I looking for? Steep? Long and gradual? Time goal to the top?
HAL’S ANSWER: All of the above. It depends on what convenient hills you have nearby. Adapt your training to what is available. I have the advantage of living at the top of a hill with two approaches: short and shallow on one approach; long and somewhat steeper on the other.
For my hill training, I always choose long and steeper. Did I say, somewhat steeper? The hill is approximately 400 meters long. It is not so steep so as to prevent me from maintaining a good rhythm. A typical “hill training” workout for me toward the end of a training cycle might be 6 x Hill, running the hill up fast, then jogging back down easy. When training for Boston or other hilly marathons, I sometimes would insert a fast downhill repeat or two.
Effort would be about the same as if I had done an interval training workout on the track: 6 x 400 meters. Times might be slightly different, but times don’t matter in hill training. Steepness of the hill doesn’t matter. Length of the hill doesn’t matter. You adapt to your surroundings, whatever hill is convenient. Mine obviously was convenient, because it ended at my mailbox In other hill workouts, I used a steep sand dune a mile away that would have brought a Kenyan to his knees.
Hill training is a great way to strengthen the quads, so necessary at the end of marathons. Good luck finding a Perfect Hill near you.
Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans. Check out more of Hal Higdon's training plans here or on his website.