Hill workouts should be an essential part of any runner’s training repertoire. They provide a lot of benefits for a relatively steep price: speed, strength, fitness, focus, challenge, and confidence all wrapped into a tidy package of uphill repeats. One of my favorite hill sessions, especially for the ultrarunners I coach, is one I learned about from two-time Western States Endurance Run champion and all-around badass, Rob Krar, in an article I first wrote for Competitor/PodiumRunner in 2014. He calls it the Man Maker and regardless of how you identify, it’s a doozy that’ll help you become a better, stronger, and more well-rounded runner. Here are the details:
What: 8 x 3-minute uphill repeats at a hard effort (8 on a scale of 1-10) on a moderately steep grade (ideally 6-8%) with 90 seconds of walking/jogging recovery between repeats *Note: This is a REALLY hard workout. I’d recommend starting with 4-5 reps and working your way up to 8 over the course of several weeks.
Why: “This is a true strength, fitness, and confidence builder,” Krar explained to me, “and it takes a lot out of me, mentally and physically, each time I hit it.”
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: This one requires a long hill that doesn’t force you to backtrack. If you have access to a treadmill, you can program this workout into it and dial in the grade, duration, and effort rather precisely.
When: “I generally reserve this workout for the 8-10 week training block preceding a race,” Krar says, “and might hit it once every 2-3 weeks depending on the race I’m training for and other various considerations.”
Variations: If you don’t live in a mountain town and/or don’t have access to a long enough hill, hit up the longest hill you can find near you. Run uphill at the same hard effort as described above (8 on a scale of 1-10) and walk/jog down the hill for recovery between repeats. Aim to total 12-24 minutes of hard uphill running for the workout.