by Martin John Trout

In the second and third parts of our guide to speed-work we looked at Fartlek and Interval Training. Here we will look at the (dreaded!) Hill Sessions and how they can be incorporated into training to help us become more powerful and faster runners.

The four basic types of speed-work are

  • fartlek

  • interval training

  • hill sessions

  • tempo runs

Hill Sessions

What are they?

These are interval sessions played out on a hill or indeed any sloping surface (bridges, pedestrian underpass etc.).

What will it benefit?

The additional benefit in doing hill sessions is the added muscular involvement within a power context. It takes more muscular force to run up a hill than to run on a flat surface. However the benefits in terms of Vo2max stimulus and lactate clearance mechanisms are quite similar.

Here again we can identify different lengths of intervals ranging from short and very intense 50/60 meters up to distances of 1000 to 2000 meters. While the shorter distances will elicit Vo2max and neuromuscular improvements, the longer distances stimulate contemporarily muscular and cardiovascular resistance.

Recovery and lactate clearance take place during the return to the start of the climb or hill. This may be done as a walk down in the case of distances between 50 – 300 meters where the run intensity is higher, or as an easy jog down for the longer distances.

Give me an example?

Examples of such workouts could be 10 – 20 x 50 meters with walking recovery to the base and a new run every 90 – 120”, or 8 x 500 meters with an easy run down and each new fast run starts as soon as you get to the bottom.

How about incline?

The ideal slope for such sessions would be about 10% but anything from 5 – 15% can be made to work with the necessary adjustments in running intensity and/or force production.

What about the downhills?

Yes. A special mention should be made of downhill repeats!

Road or track athletes would not normally do these, but for trail runners they are extremely useful, especially if we wish to avoid the dreaded DOMS the day after a race.

How best to do them?

These can be performed as a run up and run down session with suitable recovery periods at the top and the bottom, or we can get some specific race day training by fast walking the up hills and pounding the down hills.

Next time we look at Tempo Runs


Martin John Trout Martin Trout is an all round Adventurer, an accomplished ultra runner, mountaineer, ski mountaineering instructor and trail running coach at Endurance Training in Progress. He’s been living in Italy since the 1990’s.