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:
- Complete a 1-2 mile easy warm up jog.
- 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.
- 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)
- Quickly, but comfortably run down the hill (high cadence and short stride).
- 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.
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