Home Running Marathon Training How To: Hill Repeats (Safely building strength)

How To: Hill Repeats (Safely building strength)

Incorporating speed work into a training plan is a go-to method for many runners to improve their pace, yet it is also the road to injury for many runners. Running places a lot of physical stress on bones, joints and muscles and speedwork exacerbates this stress on the body. Injury typically occurs when a runner has exceeded his/her physical training limits causing the muscles, bones and joints to absorb more stress than they can handle. Immediately incorporating speedwork into your training (and thus risking injury) isn’t a necessary evil for marathon hopefuls. There is a way to safely prepare your body for the rigors of speedwork: hill repeats.

Every Thursday morning I run hill repeats. Why? Because it’s part of the training plan.  My training plan incorporates a minimum of 4-6 weeks of hill repeat exercises; this workout develops strength and leg speed by introducing anaerobic training before doing speedwork. During hill repeats a runner is required to do only a few minutes of actual “work” (each hill repeat is 1 minute long), versus speedwork that typically results in 2-3 miles (16-24 minutes) of “work”. Hill repeats allow a runner to safely and gradually work towards the more taxing track workouts later in marathon training.

How to: Hill repeats: 

  1. Complete a 1-2 mile easy warm up jog.
  2. Run up a 1 minute hill at a 6-10% grade (steep, but nothing ridiculously impossible) with the lowest cadence and longest stride you can muster. Think of doing a “speed burst” up a hill. Yes, you’ll lose speed quickly, so dig deep and push onward.
  3. Run flat for 2-3 minutes at the top of the hill to recover (tougher workouts will have you turn around, run down and start again)
  4. Quickly, but comfortably run down the hill (high cadence and short stride).
  5. 1-2 mile easy cooldown jog.

Repeat. (If new to hill repeats start with 3-4 and add one repeat each week until you get to 7-8).


Pictured below is my hill workout from last Friday.

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Don’t be alarmed if your hill repeat workout yields a slower overall pace than usual. On Friday I ran a total of 9.5 miles at with an average pace of 8:06 min/mi. That being said when I burst up the hill 7 times each time I was going at about a 7-7:25 pace for a solid minute to build strength. Even though the overall pace for isn’t super speedy, the workout as a whole is efficient at safely taxing your energy systems and strengthening your lower body and core muscles.

I must warn you- this is a tough workout, but also worth doing! It helps me to head out on a run with a specific plan for the run, rather than just run for 60-70 minutes. Hill repeats help pass the time and keep me mentally engaged in the entire workout!

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do… err.. actually it’s more of a love/hate relationship with repeats, but you know what I mean.

Never Stop Running,

The Lone Runner

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