Workout of the Week: Hills and a Steady Chill


This workout is all about that base. It’s a relatively straightforward session that combines a set of short (30-60”) hill repeats with a moderate dose of steady state running (think marathon-ish effort). It’s perfect for athletes early in a training block when they’re building volume and reintroducing intensity without getting too specific just yet. It’s not meant to be that hard. There are a number of ways you can manipulate this workout but I like to start with the hill repeats because the athlete is fresh and we can get more out of this element of it in terms of muscle fiber recruitment, improving power, and running with good form. The steady state afterward should be steady aerobic work—not too hard, but not that easy—and shouldn’t take that much out of you energetically or otherwise. Here are the details:

What: A set of 4-6 x 30-60 second hill repeats at 3K-1 mile EFFORT (walk/jog downhill for recovery between reps) followed by a continuous 4-8 mile steady state run ranging from marathon pace to 15-20 seconds per mile SLOWER than marathon pace. *Note: Be careful not to get carried away and squeeze the pace down to half-marathon pace or faster. That’s too hard for what this workout is trying to achieve!

Why: The short hill repeats are great for building lower leg strength and improving power while also working on mechanics. The steady state afterward switches up the stimulus and helps to build aerobic capacity and improve focus. 

Warmup/Cooldown: Warm up before the workout with 15-30 minutes of easy running followed by a set of drills and 4-6 x 20-second strides (i.e., accelerate for 5 seconds, spend the next 10 seconds at near-top speed, and then gradually decelerate to a jog over the final 5 seconds. Catch your breath for 40-60 seconds and then repeat 3-5 more times). Cool down after the workout with 5-15 minutes of easy running.

Where: You’ll need a moderately steep hill (6-8% grade) that takes you 30 to 60 seconds to run up at a hard effort as well as a flat to gently rolling road or path for the steady state. A treadmill also works since you can program this workout into it and dial in the grade, duration, and effort rather precisely. 

When: This is a great early season workout when you’re building your aerobic base but also trying to touch power and speed without getting too specific. I like to assign a version of this session once a week for 4-6 weeks and will adjust the number and length of the hill reps and/or the duration of the steady state as the athlete gains fitness. 

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