Speed and hills

MinksMinks ✭✭✭
Up until recently one of my 'key' weekly sessions was 5 x 2-minute intervals with 2-minute recoveries between (I'd just started speedwork). I've now moved to a much hillier area and none of my training routes are flat or even have substantial sections which are flat.

Over the past few weeks I've been adjusting to running on hills and still do my long slow run, recovery run and tempo run on various routes from my home, all of which are quite hilly. However, I don't want to lose my speedwork, but everything I've read in RW and elsewhere states that speed sessions should be done on a smooth, flat, measured surface. What to do?


  • Are there any running clubs where you are living now, most clubs normally have an evening where they do speedwork. It's also much easier to do with other people.

    Alternatively you could try finding a track in your local area, ideal for doing reps.
  • its true that fast speedwork is best done on a flat surface, so the track is ideal for 200's - 400's [when you'll be going quite fast], however in my experience, hills can be ideal for longer, speed endurance sessions. i did a great session last week, albeit using the sandhills and woods near where i live, with 1 min fast/slow, 2min etc up to 4 or 5 minutes then back down like a 'pyramid' session. as long as you're just increasing the tempo and not sprinting, and the fast bits are sustained rather than short, hills can be useful even though it's harder to evaluate.
  • hello minkin, I've just tried to start speed sessions, with a 2-2 like you, I've been doing it on the treadmill at the gym, hate it really, but it does keep me going at the same pace.

    My outside is hilly,and I've always understood that hills are as good as speedwork, except that you don't get the striding out feel, but I do that downhill,

    I think the trick is to try to keep to the same pace up the hill, thereby increasing heart rate, and I suppose when you get better it's possible to increase up the hills?
  • I'm in the same boat Minkin, and no expert of speed training and in fact I've started going to club sessions for my interval training, although they still seem to involve undulating laps or stretches with steps to run up! But before then I found a flat stretch of road locally which took around 3 mins flat out, and just ran up and down * 5/6 with jogging recoveries in a different direction if you see what I mean.
    Just be creative and find a short stretch which is flat if that's what you want to do. If you want to keep it simple you can do 'power hills' where you push the pace on every hill, bit like a fartlek session.
  • As you are a beginner I wouldn't worry about missing out on speed sessions. With all those hills you are going to get oh so fit you'll not need them, Attack the hills.
  • MinksMinks ✭✭✭
    Thanks everyone. I guess I didn't really think of using the '2 minute fast, two minute recovery' approach on hills. Obviously I can't run uphill as fast as I could on the flat, but I'm sure the extra effort would still help.

    I have looked around, but there doesn't seem to be a public track anywhere round where I live. I have also been thinking about joining the local running club, but I'm kind of put off by the idea of 'formal' running on specific nights of the week at specific times. I like to vary my weekly schedule to fit round other commitments, which is more difficult with a running club. Still might give it a go though, might be good motivation through the winter months.

    Quiet like Laura's suggestion of 'power hills' - might give that a try too. As Laura says, I think I just need to think a little more creatively about the whole issue!
  • Quite often you can find an athletics track at a university campus - or sometimes a school. I use the local university - it has an old cinder track that does not appear to get much use. It has the advantage of being free.
  • Just sprint up the hills and recover down or choose one hill and attack it at intervals
  • I live in a very hilly area and I would be surprised if you can't find a suitable flat section say mid-way through a run. I think there are a variety of strategies depending on what you're working towards, but best to just be flexible, as a relative beginning provided you do some speedwork each week you WILL get faster overall.

    Hill running is probably the best speedwork you can do a) because its harder; but b) because its less stressful on joints running uphill.
  • But is that really speedwork or (for lack of a better term) "strength work" Martin?
    Only if you actually practise running fast on the flat are you going to develop the legspeed required to do it when it matters.

    I can't provide a solution to your problem Minkin, but I'm quite sure that, training normally in your new surroundings, you're going to benefit hugely.
  • MinksMinks ✭✭✭
    I hope so Mike! I'm reluctant to do fast downhill sessions as I have already found I get some discomfort in my calves when I run downhill too quickly, as it has a tendency to jar your legs.

    I'm no expert, but I would imagine that if you get used to running fairly fast over hilly terrain, then running fast over a flat route would seem much easier comparatively?
  • Mike - Yes technically you're right it falls more into the strength category but I think it depends how steep the hill is and how fast you run it!

    In my view provided you're not running up everest hill work develops much better speed "form" as it encourages higher knee lift and aggressive arm action. Ultimately though if the exercise isn't specific enough I'd agree you won't get the specific benefits.
  • If you can do your faster-paced running uphill (whether it's a serious hill or a slight incline) it will get you fitter more quickly, and also build more muscle strength.

    However, make sure you are still "running relaxed" otherwise it might be counterproductive in terms of form and style.

    I personally do most of my speedwork sessions on the treadmill. I vary between running faster on a 1 or 2% incline (to help leg speed and get used to the sensation of the pace) and running at normal pace but up a 6 to 8% incline (to build strength whilst staying relaxed).

    Both sessions have a very similar training effect. The difference is as much psychological as physiological!
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