What I’ve Learned So Far: Hills Edition

Lori and I are just finishing up a 4 week Hill focused module from the Greg McMillan, You (Only Faster) book.  It’s been a great month, and I think we came off the month before (a speed module) needing something easier, or if not easier, less hard on our bodies.  It’s also is timing itself well to get us started on our 12 week marathon plan feeling speedy and strong.  Here are the workout’s that we’ve done this past month, and how they’ve progressed, plus a bit of general information on hill training.

photo (11)
Powering up Bebo Grove hill out of Fish Creek.

Week 1: Medium hill 6-8 reps.  We actually did 6 x’s repeats up the service road next to the Glenmore Dam.  This is a fairly steep hill, and it was cold and blizzardy this day.  According to my garmin it has an elevation delta of 17 meters.


Week 2: Long hill 8-10 reps.  We did 8 x’s repeats up the Sicome hill.  Again the weather was terrible for this workout.  It was really cold and windy.  The elevation delta is 32 meters, so quite a bit longer, and steeper than the week 1 hill.


Week 3: Medium hill 8-10 reps.  We went back to the Glenmore Dam service road and did 8 reps.

Week 4: Long hill 10-12 reps.  We ran 10 reps of the Bebo Grove hill into Fish Creek.  This was the first week that we actually had dry pavement to run our hill repeats on.  This hill had a delta of 22 meters.  Our average pace this week was much faster at 5:46 compared to 5:53, 5:57, and 6:24.  Running on dry pavement made all the difference.


I’ve included screen shots of the different elevation profiles of the hills we’ve run just to show that we’ve picked different hills on purpose.  I think it’s good practice to run different hills, some are steeper than others, some are steep to start and then level out, it’s good to get your body used to many different things to keep it guessing and not knowing what to expect.

The workouts above are all hill repeat workouts, meaning, we do a warm-up (10-15 minutes of easy running) and then run up the hill at a good effort and pace, then jog down it, run up, repeat until you’re finished the number of reps you’ve planned.  Afterwards we always try to do a 10-15 minute cool down to help keep the blood flowing and hopefully reduce soreness afterwards.  Everyone’s different obviously, but I always find hills hard while I’m doing them, but not hard on my body.  I’m rarely if ever sore the next day, whereas after doing speed repeats, I was often sore for a day or two afterwards.

Another type of hill workout is to just run hills on your everyday runs.  This is something that I also try to do, especially for my long runs.  I think it’s good to run hills when you’re doing a long run, especially if you’re training for a hilly race.  Both the Seattle marathon (that I did last December) and Calgary (that I’m running in June) have their fair share of hills, so I want my body to be accustomed to running them every day.  The only runs that I really try to avoid hills are speed runs, if I’m running speed or tempo type runs where I’m trying to hit certain paces, then I’ll seek out a flat area to run in.

As for form, it’s recommended to take short, quick, powerful strides.  Try to imagine that you’re running the last 100 meters of a race, you’re tired, and just trying to hold everything together until the finish line.  Keep your head down, focus on just a few feet in front of you, relax and enjoy the strength that you’re gaining.  As with most workouts, I find that keeping a positive attitude makes all the difference.  I like to focus my mind on how strong I am, how much fun it is to conquer the hill.

Do you do hill repeats?  Do you live in a hilly area and run them every day, or do you shy away from them?


10 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned So Far: Hills Edition

  1. Great job! and wow ya’ll are speedy! I know I need to start really doing hill repeats but I haven’t done it yet. I always end up letting myself want to get a certain distance or time in. I need to commit and do the hill work.

  2. Pingback: What I’ve Learned So Far: Hills Edition | Runners and sports enthusiasts Unite !!

  3. I love the profiles of the hills and it makes a lot of sense to pick different hills instead of the same one all the time. Glad to hear you’re feeling strong going into the “normal” training plan!

  4. Fish Creek Park is in my neighbourhood, Sikome Hill being part of my long run. I do hills in the lead up to the Harvest Half, otherwise I don’t if it’s a largely flat race.

  5. Those are some sweet workouts. I honestly LOVE doing hill workouts. I usually run on hilly routes but I try to make time to do repeats as time allows. When I amp up my training for my 50k, I will be doing a lot more of them!

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