Kill That Hill

Don’t let hills bring you down: use them to build your speed and en­durance

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue -

Time to take your run­ning up a few notches

HILLS MAY LOOM LARGE in your path, both daunt­ing and taunt­ing. But if you take on the chal­lenge to climb them, 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 long race,’ says run­ning coach Lisa Re­ich­mann. Coaches such as Re­ich­mann have long touted the ben­e­fits of hill train­ing and now sci­ence can back the be­lief, thanks to re­cent re­search by Dr Derek Fer­ley, di­rec­tor of sports sci­ence re­search and sports per­for­mance train­ing at the Avera Sports In­sti­tute in South Dakota, US.

Fer­ley, who is a run­ner, al­ways in­cor­po­rated hills into his own half-marathon and marathon train­ing, but back in 2010, he was sur­prised to find a lack of peer­re­viewed 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 per cent 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, says Fer­ley.

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