Monday, May 12, 2008

26 Tips for Marathon Training and Racing: #13- Hills

Mt Fuji Climbing Race - Took me 4 hours to finish this half marathon!

Running hills should be a REQUIRED component of your training if the marathon you are training for has any significant change in elevation, up or down.

Run up a hill and you can immediately feel the difference compared to flats. Breathing becomes labored very quickly, and quads fatigue rapidly. Instead of moving your body mass horizontally, you've added a vertical component that dramatically increases energy expenditure and recruits additional muscle fibers.

There are any number of ways to add hills to your training. Because of added stress on the Achilles tendons, calf muscles, and knees, beginners should proceed with caution. While there are many different types of hill workouts, here are some that are commonly used:

Option 1: Design a 4-5 mile route that includes 2-4 significant hills.
Option 2: Find a hill that measures 300-400 meters and run repetitions up.
Option 3: Find a long hill several miles long (common in the mountains).
Option 4: Find a short, steep hill, and run repetitions up 10-15 seconds hard.

According to Amby Burfoot of Runners Runners World, Dr. Gabriel Rosa, coach of many champion Kenyan runners, uses a strenuous hill workout every 10 days. One favorite is a 13 mile run that rises over 4,000 feet. Pretty tough when your starting point is already at altitude!

How do you fit hills into your training routine? The regular interval day is such a critical piece of your training, I would not give that up to do hills. I prefer to add this workout as a substitute for the weekend 5K or tempo workout twice a month.

Here is hill workout that I like that not many other marathoners are practicing. On one of my scheduled easy or off days, I like doing hill repeats on that 300-400 meter hill with a bike! Stand on the pedals as long as you can to simulate running, but sit when you have to. I think you'll find 5-6 of those is plenty!

Many coaches typically introduce hills early in a marathon build-up, then abandon them after their athletes have built strength and move on to a speed focused phase. Why risk losing the benefits? Stick with them until your taper or switch exclusively to the bike.

(c) Dave Elger, All rights reserved 2008.

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