For the past four weeks the training program has emphasized improving your VO2max through faster paced workouts at 5km pace. Tomorrow is your final VO2max workout of the series of workouts. The next two weeks of the program will allow you to recover from the higher intensity workouts by focusing on tempo pace. The tempo workouts will help to improve your Lactate Threshold. Your tempo pace is about 10 to 15 seconds per km slower than your 10km pace. Following that the schedule moves into improving your running economy with four weeks of hills and short intervals.

Running economy is defined as the amount of oxygen used while running at a less than maximum speed; how efficient are you at utilizing oxygen. Hills are helpful because they improve stride power and running technique and both contribute to improving running economy. After a few weeks of hills and short distance speed you are ready to run faster virtual races this spring.

There are three ways to run your hill workouts:

Hill workouts – Running at 5km to 10km speed uphill for 300m to 600m; lean forward, work your arms and run fast; jog back at an easy pace as your recovery

Hill speed workouts – Running 5km to 10km speed uphill for 200m to 300m with an added 100m to 300m sprint on a flat surface; run up the hill followed by a faster paced sprint. The second part of the sprint on a straight away will train your muscles to utilize the newly developed power.

Bound up a shorter distance hill – Climb the hill at a moderate pace; distances 200m to 400m; emphasize high knee lift; vertical springing up the hill rather than sprint up the hill to improve your power.

Hill workout’s role in strength training

Running hills are considered the third phase of a strength training program. The first phase was general home circuit training exercises. The second phase consists of specific exercises to the running stride as described in last week’s newsletter. Running hills are the run specific strength exercises as you are required to use strength while striding up an incline. Continue with your home strength exercises and run specific exercises. Strength exercises reinforce your body and help prepare you for hill workouts and faster intervals.

Non race season training and returning from injury training

Another way to use hills in training; return to fitness quickly. If you are getting back into running and are looking for a way to quickly build your fitness components; VO2max, VO2max speed, lactate threshold, economy, anaerobic contribution and speed, try hill workouts. Hills may not be the most efficient way to improve each fitness component but they will give you a crash fitness program to get you ready for a race. Longer hill repeats of 3 to 5 minutes uphill run at 5km effort will improve all of these components.

Longer hill repeats will quickly prepare you for a race if you lost fitness from an injury. Once you have returned back to regular running you can optimize workouts by emphasizing the different components during different phases of race preparation to reach maximum fitness before a key event.

Mixing hills with long run

Adding hills to long runs will help improve your stride power and running economy. Moderate efforts uphill have shown to improve the running economy. A moderate effort is considered running at marathon pace or faster. You can pick up the pace on hills during a long run and focus on running technique especially during the early weeks of your marathon and half marathon program. This will build strength and prepare you for marathon pace pick-ups added to your long runs during the later stages of the training schedule.