Workout of the Week: Pardon the Uphill Interruption


Tempo run or short hill repeats 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 typical 4-6 mile tempo run with some 20-30 second hill repeats at a hard effort. Here are the details:

What: 1-2 x 2-3 miles at marathon or half-marathon pace (or 10-15 minutes if structuring your workout by time) with 2-4 x 20-30 second uphill repeats @ ~90% effort sandwiched between the longer repeats. After running 2-3 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 20-30 second uphill repeats @ ~90% effort on a steep but runnable grade, walking slowly downhill (take about a minute) between hill repeats. After finishing your recovery from the last uphill repeat, finish with another 2-3 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 2-3 mile/hill repeats/2-3 mile sequence one more time.

Why: The uphill repeats 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 2-3 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 Outside a few years back.

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