Ex­actly how to use hills to boost speed and en­durance.

Men's Health (Singapore) - - FRONT PAGE -

Hills may loom large and daunt­ing in your path. But take on the chal­lenge to climb them, and you’ll find a more pow­er­ful and ef­fi­cient stride, which can net faster times, on the other side. “Phys­i­cally, training on hills builds mus­cle strength, and hill sprints or re­peats can im­prove run­ning econ­omy, which trans­lates into less en­ergy ex­pended over the course of a longer dis­tance race,” says Lisa Re­ich­mann, cer­ti­fied run­ning coach in Mont­gomery County, Mary­land. Coaches like Re­ich­mann have long touted the ben­e­fits of hill training, and now, sci­ence can back the be­lief, thanks to re­cent re­search by Derek Fer­ley, Ph.D., direc­tor of sports sci­ence re­search and sports per­for­mance training at the Avera Sports In­sti­tute in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Fer­ley, a run­ner him­self, al­ways in­cor­po­rated hills into his own half-marathon and marathon training, but back in 2010, he was sur­prised to find a lack of peer-re­viewed proof of the ef­fec­tive­ness of in­clines in ex­er­cise sci­ence lit­er­a­ture. So he fired up his fa­cil­ity’s

re­search-grade tread­mills to fill the gap. In his 2013 study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Strength and Con­di­tion­ing Re­search, Fer­ley had one group of ran­domly as­signed run­ners crank up the in­cline and com­plete hill work­outs twice a week while an­other group per­formed faster rep­e­ti­tions on level ground (and a con­trol group kept up their typ­i­cal training). The re­sult: Six weeks of in­cline training boosted run­ners’ top speed and al­lowed them to sus­tain it 32 per­cent longer than they could at the start of the study.

What ex­plains the dra­matic re­sult? First, the in­ten­sity of up­hill in­ter­vals im­proves your lac­tate thresh­old. That means your body pro­duces less mus­cle-burn­ing lac­tic acid at the same pace, and you’re bet­ter able to buf­fer the acids you do churn out. Flat in­ter­vals do this, too, but with hills, you don’t have to move as fast to reap the same re­wards, Fer­ley ex­plains.

Charg­ing up slopes also asks more of your mus­cles and nerves than sprint­ing on level ground, which speeds up the con­nec­tions be­tween mind and body and makes you more ex­plo­sive. This abil­ity to sum­mon strength fast boosts how ef­fi­ciently your hard­work­ing mus­cles use oxy­gen to power you for­ward, a key fac­tor for suc­cess.

Fer­ley has spent the past five years tin­ker­ing with du­ra­tion, grade, and pace in hopes of find­ing the op­ti­mal hill-training for­mula. While he says he’s not quite fin­ished yet, you can use what he’s dis­cov­ered al­ready— along with ad­di­tional tips from top coaches—to take your run­ning to new heights. Here’s how.

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