The “Hills Make You Fast” Workout

I talk about it a lot, speed work, and I think most people are cool with Mile Repeats, Yasso 800s and Tempo Runs. What most runners shy away from are HILLS. Oh yeah, those dreaded HILLS.

But why? Well, to be honest with you, no workout in the world makes me want to vomit than a good old fashioned hill workout. Pushing your body on a flat surface is only about one thing: speed. Pushing your body on a hill is about speed AND power. It’s brutal but worth it.

So, how do you go about putting together a hill workout? I’ll share my most brutal favorite one with you.

There is this hill in Central Park called Cat Hill. Why is it called Cat Hill? Because there is a very large cat on the hill. You have to see it. Anyway, the hill is about a quarter of a mile (.25 mi) from the Boathouse to the stop light at the top of the hill. Here’s what I do on Hill Day:

  • 1-1.5 mi easy warm up
  • Sprint up the hill, jog slowly down (4-6 times)
  • 1.5-2 miles at race pace

The warm up is an absolute necessity with this type of workout. If you don’t warm up, you won’t be able to reach your max speed on the hills. The idea is to run each hill repeat in the same amount of time as the one before. Don’t forget to find a hill that is at least .15 mi long so that you get more than a minute on each hill. I think I did 5 last time before I was sure I couldn’t do anymore. I was totally trashed. Those last few miles are to stretch your legs out, find a comfortable breathing rhythm and let your muscles relax before you stop dead in your tracks and collapse on your couch.

It may feel like you didn’t run all that far–and you didn’t. However, distance isn’t the goal here, intensity IS. If you are hitting those hills with everything you’ve got, you will see an improvement in your distance running. If you are loafing about and phoning in your hill workouts, you will see no improvement whatsoever.

Got guts? Hit the hills. They will rock your *running* world.

Now go out and run!