Workout of the Week: Hill Workout Interval Options

Sgt. Matthew Nees, 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, runs up Netzaberg Hill, just outside the gate of U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria, Nov. 17. Nees recently logged 2,500 running miles in the Run for Your Life program; he did so in only nine months. (Photo Credit: Chelsea Bissell, U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria Public Affairs)

One of the more difficult running workouts that will help boost your timed running events is hill running.  Intervals are a great method as well, but if you want to combine some of the more challenging running workouts into a single workout, here is a method we call Hill Day.

In our town, we have a trail that was a former railroad track and it stretches more than 25 miles from Baltimore to Annapolis MD, known of the B & A Trail. Here is a mix of running workouts that can help you with not only running endurance, running volume but your speed as well. Here is how it is designed:  

1) Run 2 miles – 2) Hill Work – 2) 2 miles worth of Intervals

Run 1.5 -2 miles easy pace either as a warmup, or you can warm up slightly prior and make the first 2 miles a goal pace zone mile event – in other words, shoot for your next goal timed run and see where you fall off your pace. This will give you some insight on how to construct future interval training work.

It takes us 2 miles to get to the hill we run. This is a fairly brutal hill that stretches about a ¼ mile up and a steep angle.  The angle is similar to running a long set of bleachers or flight of stairs but for a ¼ mile. Build up to 10-15 minutes of hills when progressing. Then over time, try to extend to 30-45 minutes of up/down hills.

In fact, if you do not have a hill, you can always replace hill workouts with the following: Bleachers – run at the track and run up/down the bleachers. If you have access to a bigger stadium then you have yourself one hell of a hill workout. If you can build up to 10-15 minutes of hill running that is a good start. Eventually, over multiple session, you can make the hill workout last 30-45 minutes with rests or leg PT at the top and bottom.

Stairs – Somedays, we stay inside and run one flight of stairs many, many times. One way to break the monotony of that is to add weight by carrying dumbbells or wearing a weight vest for some of the sets.  If you do a set of stair running, walking, carrying mix for 10-15 minutes you will find it to be an outstanding leg endurance day. Wait until you run again after a recovery day on flat ground – it is SO much easier!

Jacob’s Ladder – If you have access to one of these machines, try it out. It is also a fantastic replacement to a hill and even makes stair running look easy. If you can do 10-15 minutes on this machine varying the speed/pace every minute, you will find it very challenging. Once again, try to progress to 30-45 even 60 minutes on this device with a variety of interval sets such as Tabata intervals, 1 min fast / 1 min slow, 100 steps as fast as you can, go easy until heart rate comes back to normal – repeat.

The run back home requires 2 miles. To get some speed benefit, we typically will start off with 100m easy, 100m fast and build up over the next 4-5 sets of that to full speed sprinting.  If you continue 100m easy / 100m fast for 5 more times, you have gotten about 1 mile out of the way. You can use the last mile as a cooldown phase OR try to see if you can make the next four quarter miles at your goal mile pace. For instance, try 90 second quarter miles if your goal is to hit a 6-minute mile at your next test. Or 1:45 is that goal is a 7-minute mile.

This workout can be as hard as you make it. We have different levels of speed and endurance able to do this workout in the group.  Some push 6-minute miles the entire time and do 10 hills while others will push 7-8minute miles and do 4-5 hills. Regardless, workouts are scalable and it is up to you to push yourself properly / logically and not do too much, too soon, too fast. There is nothing wrong with doing a section of this workout on a bike or rowing machine if you are not up to this level of running yet.


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