I recently had a friend send me an article talking about the benefits of hill sprints. I have since incorporated them into my weekly training. They’re awful and glorious at the same time. For you runners out there, sometimes it’s tough to get motivated to do that speed work and go all out. For me, hill sprints are different than going to the track and doing that hard sprinting. When you do hill sprints it is typically on terrain that’s easy on the joints, grass or dirt. So I have found that it’s much easier on the body than pavement or running on a track but it’s also great for fat loss and, this is a huge one, it is a rare form of running that helps to build muscle. Driving those legs up a hill will tear down your muscle and enable it to grow when it rebuilds during recovery. Plus, there is something about that satisfaction of going all out. When you are at the point of peaking the hill and you have to put your hands on your knees because your heart is beating out of your chest, your quads are on fire and you cannot get enough oxygen fast enough.
Now, this will not help you in a long race with hills. Typically those hills are long and gradual so this type of training will not directly impact your ability to conquer those hills in a long race. But, it will help with your VO2 max and get that heart and legs strong enough to push when you need to. If you’re just starting to do hill sprints, be careful. Even though the risk of injury is really not as high as you may think, it’s the going all out that could cause injury if you haven’t been doing speed work. Make sure you warm up for 5-10 minutes, get a little sweat going. Do a couple of slower runs up your hill and gradually get to the point where you’re going 90% or more. Also, make sure your sprints are not too short and not too long. Somewhere in the 30 sec to 1:30 range on the way up. Then slowly jog back down, rest for a minute or two and do it again. The hill I usually train on is about a :50 sprint. I do 11 (to get me to the 3 mile mark) with 10 pushups on the top after each sprint. You don’t have to do the push-ups but because I am training for OCR I find that the additional strength work is beneficial. Give it a try and have fun switching up the routine and going all out.