Long intervals or short hill sprints for your next workout? Trick question. The answer is both! I like to combine different training elements from time to time to keep workouts interesting and help us get a little something extra out of them. In this workout, we’ll “interrupt” a session of 2-mile repeats with two 10-20 second hill sprints at near max effort. Here are the details:
What: 1-2 x 2 miles at marathon or half-marathon pace (or 10-15 minutes if structuring your workout by time) with 2-4 x 20-second uphill sprints sandwiched between the longer repeats. After running 2 miles at your intended pace, recover by jogging easily for 2-3 minutes (if you’re closer to marathon pace, take 2 minutes recovery; half-marathon pace, take 3). Then run 2-4 x 20-second uphill sprints on a steep but runnable grade at a hard effort, walking slowly downhill (take about a minute) between hill sprints. After finishing your recovery from the second uphill sprint, finish with 2 miles at marathon or half-marathon pace. That’s one set and plenty of work for most people. If you’re an experienced athlete running higher mileage, you can repeat the entire 2-mile/2-4 x 20″ hill sprints/2-mile sequence one more time.
Why: The uphill sprints recruit more muscle fibers while also rapidly increasing the level of muscular fatigue in your legs, making it that much more of a challenge to maintain your rhythm on the second 2-mile repeat.
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: Road, trail, or treadmill work best for this one. If you’re doing this workout outdoors, I’ve found the best options to be a loop that starts and ends at a hill or an out-back stretch from the base of a hill.
When: I like to use this workout a few times in the early to middle stages of a training block (and not within 10-14 days of a key race).
Variations: As with most workouts, there are a number of different permutations and combinations you can play around with here. I outline a few others in this article I wrote for PodiumRunner a few years back.