Monday, November 1, 2010

Hill Workouts on the Treadmill

Even if you’re not training for a race, mixing up your weekly runs is a great way to make you a stronger more efficient runner. Adding a weekly hill workout is a great way to “mix-it-up.” Runners usually have a love-hate relationship with hills. It’s one of those things that you dread, but love after you’ve completed it.

Why the dread? Well, they’re hard. They’re hard for a reason. The incline of the hill helps strengthen all of the lower-body muscles, especially the glutes and hamstrings. The increased speed needed to climb that hill helps boost your VO2Max (your body’s ability to take in oxygen and get it to the muscle to make energy) as well as push out your lactate threshold (the point at which you feel that fatiguing burn in your legs). Boosting all three of these areas does a lot to make you a stronger, faster, more efficient runner. Whether you’re a marathon endurance runner or a speedy 5K racer, weekly hill workouts can be of great benefit to your training.

A problem for many runners is the availability of hills. So, what’s a runner to do? The answer is as close as your nearest treadmill. Yep, you can get in a great hill workout right on your in-home or gym treadmill. Even if you do live in an area with hills, it can be hard to find just the right hill or hills to fit your training needs. The treadmill eliminates that problem by allowing you the ability to determine the length of your hill as well as the degree of incline. Most treadmills have a range of inclines from 1°-12°and some even go higher.

An important element of any hill workout (whether beginner or experienced) is the warm-up. It’s never a good idea to expose your body to intense speed work or steep inclines without first warming-up your muscles. So, before any hill workout, it’s best to begin with a 1-mile easy jog at 0° incline.

If you’re a newbie to hill work, it’s best to gradually introduce your body to the various inclines. If you’re a new runner or even an experienced runner who hasn’t done much hill running, the muscles and tendons in your legs may not yet have the strength for intense and/or steep hill work. Instead of discovering that the hard way by becoming injured, start out slow, gradually increase your leg strength, and before you know it you’ll be conquering any degree of incline. Often runners new to hill workouts, think they need a huge degree of incline in order to get an effective workout. Actually you don’t need much more than a 7° incline to get a great hill workout. Also keep in mind that a lower the degree of incline can involve a longer distance run and a higher degree of incline will involve a shorter distance run.

Below is a good beginner and intermediate pyramid hill workout. It’s called a pyramid because the runner begins at 0° incline, builds up to a designated degree of incline, and then works his/her way back down to 0° again. (You should be able to run at least 5-miles with ease before attempting these workouts.)

The Beginner Pyramid
Run 1-mile at an easy pace at 0° incline.
Run ¾ -mile at an easy pace at 1° incline.
Run ½ -mile at an easy pace at 2° incline.
Run ¼ -mile at an easy pace at 3° incline.
Run ½ -mile at an easy pace at 2° incline.
Run ¾ -mile at an easy pace at 1° incline.
Run 1-mile at an easy pace at 0° incline.

The Intermediate Pyramid
Run 1-mile at an easy pace at 0° incline.
Run 1-mile at an easy pace at 2° incline.
Run ¾-mile at an easy pace at 3° incline.
Run ½-mile at an easy pace at 4° incline.
Run ¼-mile at an easy pace at 5° incline.
Run ½-mile at an easy pace at 4° incline.
Run ¾-mile at an easy pace at 3° incline.
Run 1-mile at an easy pace at 2° incline.

Your everyday “outside” running routes most likely have hills dispersed intermittently throughout the route. Use the following workout to help condition your body to be able to deal with hills that pop-up during a run.

Intermittent Hill Workout
Run 1-mile at your regular pace at 0° incline.
Run ¼ -mile at a slightly faster pace at 2° incline.
Continue with the same pace and run ¼ -mile at 3° incline.
Continue with the same pace and run ¼ -mile at 4° incline.

Continue with the same pace and run ¼ -mile at 5° incline.
Run 1-mile at your regular pace at 0° incline.
Repeat this cycle twice for a 6-mile run or three times for a 9-mile run.

Hill workouts can also be used as an alternative to a speed workout. This type of workout is typically done outside as hill repeats, such as a 10 x 100m hill repeat. It’s a little further, but to make it easier to track the distance on a treadmill, change the 100m to 1/10th of a mile. If this type of workout is new to you, start with a 4 x .1-mile and work your way up to a 6 x .1-mile and eventually get to an 8 x .1-mile workout.

Surge the Hill Repeats
Run 1-mile at an easy pace at 0° incline (Warm-Up Mile)
Run .1 mile at maximum speed at a 10° incline (Speed Interval)
Run .1 mile at an easy pace at a 0° incline (Recovery Interval)
Run .1 mile at maximum speed at a 10° incline (Speed Interval)
Run .1 mile at an easy pace at a 0° incline (Recovery Interval)
Run .1 mile at maximum speed at a 10° incline (Speed Interval)
Run .1 mile at an easy pace at a 0° incline (Recovery Interval)
Run .1 mile at maximum speed at a 10° incline (Speed Interval)
Run .1 mile at an easy pace at a 0° incline (Recovery Interval)

11 comments:

GoMelRun said...

I totally agree. I live in a very flat area. But the 2 5k's I did had hills in them and they just killed me.

I don't live in town, so I bought a treadmill for home to work on hill workouts. I needed to find a way to defeat the hills.

Mark U. said...

When running on a treadmill - and especially at an incline - you should be aware of the much higher heat load to your body than you'd otherwise expect for the temperature - owing to the lack of air movement. Consequently, you should use a fan and have fluids nearby to stay hydrated.

RunnerDude said...

Hi Mel! Let me know if you try some of the workouts.

RunnerDude said...

Hi Mark! Yep, so true, unless you live in NC and it's summer time. LOL!

Boris Terzic said...

Totally agree, great info.

running2thestartline said...

I, too, live in a very flat area. I have heard of runners going to the parking garage at the local hospital to get a good hill workout. Thanks for these nice treadmill workouts!

GoMelRun said...

Yes, I started using the treadmill at work. Nice and cool in there. But I wanted longer workouts, so I bought one for home. I finally am building my own lil gym at home. Has a ceiling fan and I always bring a jug of water.

And yes, I emailed myself this post so I can refer to the workouts.

RunnerDude said...

Hi running2thestartline! That parking garage idea is a one. I use a parking lot that's a perfect 1/2-mile loop for my 800 interval workouts. We make do with what we have, huh? Thanks!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Mel! Home gym, that's awesome!Keep up the great work!

Heather said...

Thank you for an excellent list of hill options. I have printed it and will put it on my treadmill with my other treadmill workouts.

RunnerDude said...

Thanks Heather! Let me know how you like the workouts!