One of the best training methods that runners can use to build strength in foot muscles, and increase their threshold and endurance is hill running. Most runners in training will be going through some or the other form of hill running, but to make the most of this session, it’s a wise idea to add some variations and increase the difficulty over time. For those who are used to the intensity of a hill run, steep hill sprints are the next summit to conquer.
Simply put, short, maximum-intensity steep hill sprints make you put in a lot of effort, and most of it against gravity. This results in overall strengthening of muscles that are key to being an injury-free runner. Secondly, it teaches runners the value of keeping your strides short and running form compact. That definitely makes a difference when you are in a race situation or want to shave off seconds from your time. These
A word to the uninitiated: Steep hill sprints are no joke and don’t just start this on a lark because it will have unintended consequences such as ankle injuries or even long-term knee damage. Build up your strength through regular hill runs, and strength and conditioning before tackling these. It’s only after many rounds of training will your your body be capable of absorbing the stress a steep hill sprint places on your feet.
If you are taking on a hill sprint for the first time, warm up with an easy run. Your goal should be to familiarise yourself to the strain by doing extremely short intervals of sprints – we are talking 8-10 seconds – on a steep incline. If you are on a treadmill, the inclination should be approximately six percent. Find a track that mimics this inclination on your outdoor run.
Give your body time to recover between hill sprints – preferably two days between each session. You will realise the muscle soreness reducing after each session as your muscles build up the memory.
After two weeks of acclimatisation, increase the interval duration of your hill sprints. Runners should ideally increase the number of speed intervals per session before tackling longer speed intervals. Only once you’re doing eight to 10 sprints regularly per session should you consider upping the duration to over 10 seconds, and the inclination to around eight percent.
The big jump
After a few more weeks, advance to 12-15 second sprints on a hill with around 10 percent inclination. Your body should be adequately prepared for this with warm-ups, drills and stretching. Remember, do not skip on recovery period under any circumstance. Rest between intervals for however long you think you need with a amble or a light jog.
Maximum-effort running improves a runner’s capacity to run for longer on seemingly tired legs, and a hill sprint adds an extra degree of intensity with the inclination. All in all, it’s very beneficial. After you are used to this training routine, you can cut down the weekly frequency but increase the intervals to about 10 intervals of hill sprints in each session. This is the level of training most competitive runners would need and it’s more than enough to carry you through steep sections of the track in an upcoming race or marathon.