Recent research has demonstrated conclusively that hill running is more effective than flat training for improving overall conditioning.
Researchers compared hill running with similar paced running on the flat, and also faster paced flat running. The hill running produced the greatest improvement in VO2 max and leg strength.
This shows that hill running isn't just for those training for hilly races. In addition to the cardiovascular benefits it has three other benefits that can help any runner:
- Increased mental toughness
- A stronger push off
- More flexible hips
Mental Toughness: If you regularly train on hills, when you approach a hill in a race, you'll see this not as a problem, but as an opportunity to make up time.
Stronger Push-Off: Hill sprinting strengthens your ankles, allowing you to push off the ground more powerfully, and propelling you further forward with each stride.
Flexible Hips: Hill sprints increase your stride length by improving the flexibility of your hips. Stride length is a crucial factor in running speed - the further each stride takes you, the fewer strides you have to take, and the faster you'll run. When you run hill sprints, you'll lift your knees higher, which increases hip flexibility and thus stride length.
One of the keys to smart training is that every workout has a purpose, and hill sprints are one of the most effective workouts you can add to your training.
Adding them to your programme once a week will improve you performance - regardless of the terrain you race on.