Why hill training needs to become part of your regular workout

On a recent weekend jog, my iPod battery went flat. Boredom and the lack of motivation quickly set in, so I had take drastic action. What to do? I looked right, and there was this huge, lonely mound – a hill.

Rather than an endless lap, my training session turned into a series of hill sprints broken up with an assortment of bodyweight exercises. It was short, difficult, and efficient. Hill training is intense. Hill training sucks. Hill training ruined my morning. Hill training increases health.

Here's how to turn a boring run into an intense affair.

Hill Training. What is it?

See hill. Run up the hill. Run down the hill. Hill training is self-explanatory.

Hill training epitomises the thought: "Change the angle, and you change the exercise."

A simple hill takes normal jogging and morphs into a fusion of cardio / strength training. It increases strength, cardio fitness, tone, and weight loss. The bigger the hill gradient, the harder the session.

The Benefits

Moving bodyweight against gravity is tough work, therefore hill training builds muscle. And while running downhill, you must support your body to maintain form, which is not as easy as it sounds. Long jogs can be replaced with shorter, high intensity hill sessions that require less time to perform during a busy day – it's all about efficiency. Further, your quads, hamstrings, joints, and ankle stability all benefit from hill training.

Surprisingly, there isn't much science around hill training, but what's out there proves that runners who train on hills increase aerobic power and running economy – all leading to decreased race times.

The uphill technique  

While running uphill, remember three aspects: lean, lift, and drive. Your body should naturally lean forward (just a little bit), but remember to stand tall while running uphill. Concentrate on a forefoot strike with little-to-no heel strike – your calves are going to feel it. With smaller strides, lift your knees and pump your arms while driving up.


The downhill technique 

The most important variable in running downhill is to control your body, or you'll end up a youtube tragedy like the folks in the Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling Race in England. Shorten the strides while trying to be light on your feet to ease the stress on joints. Gravity will help do some of the work, but your quadriceps will be catching your load – great for toning and strengthening the legs.

The hill training sessions 

A long run is boring… I get it. So, don't look at hill training as an extension of running but rather an extension of the gym where you can work the entire body and burn serious calories.

For the newbies – if walking is your exercise, then it's time to turn up the volume by adding hill walking. You'll expend more energy which tones, tightens, and aids in weight loss. Get sweating, and get the heart rate up! If you really want to push it, with two hands carry a 3-5kgs weight overhead uphill – that's a serious test.

Go the extra distance

If you're a regular runner, then it's time to push it. Perform 100 per cent intensity sprints uphill. Slowly jog back down and drop for 20 push ups, 20 sit ups, 20 squats, and 10 burpees. Sessions like this will turn your body from marathon runner into one with athletic tone and upper body strength. Try 5 rounds.

For women who fancy tummy and leg tone for beach weather, run with 100 per cent effort up a hill, and at the top smash out 15 squats, 15 situps, 30 plyometric lunges, 15 leg extensions, and 10 burpees. Walk down, and repeat until 5 rounds are completed.

And for the lads that are pumped, buffed, and ready for shredding? Skip the treadmill workouts and use hill running for your HIIT (high intensity interval training) sessions. Sprint uphill, walk downhill, and design your own session until you are shattered.

Push comes to shove

I love a workout where only shirt, shorts, and shoes are required. Add a hill, and the workout choices are endless to test every level, from the mega-fit to folks starting on a weight loss journey.

Try a few weeks of hill training as prescribed above, and watch your fitness increase while tone and weight loss goals move a lot closer in your life.

Passion for lifestyle change is the cornerstone for everything Michael Jarosky does. A Sydney-based personal trainer, he cajoled thousands of Executive Style readers to undertake his 'Cut The BS' diet, and champions a charity weight-loss event, Droptober.

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