What the Hill?
Let's face it: running hills builds strength, power and speed while helping you become a better runner. The effort of running hills builds leg strength, improves overall stamina and increases efficiency—which translates into running faster. Hills are also a great way to prepare your body for the rigours of speed intervals. They offer an added challenge to your running routine and help you maintain quickness.
Running hard up short hills is like doing short repeats on a track—both are anaerobic workouts. You run hard and fast to develop explosive power and speed. Run hard up the hills, at about 80% of your maximum heart rate. Be careful to not run so fast that you lose your form. Look up the hill, run tall and stay light on your feet. The steeper the hill, the shorter your stride should be. If you try to maintain your regular stride length on an incline, you're going to double your workload. To compensate, shorten your stride and increase your leg turnover rate. Good posture will keep your breathing relaxed and efficient.
Do hill training once a week, but take a break from it for at least a week prior to any races.
Downhill running requires good technique. Often you may see runners leaning back and braking as they run down hills. On the downhills, concentrate on your form. Think about leaning forward and working with gravity. If you feel somewhat out of control as you lean forward, simply lean back and your pace will slow. Train hard on both the uphills and the downhills with rest in between.
If you live in a flat area and have no hills to train on, find a bridge, overpass or parking garage as a substitute. In a prairie city like Winnipeg, the ingenious local runners head to "The Dump," a former landfill site that is now a city park with a steep road.
Hills are your friends and they will make you a better runner. Gotta love them!