Sharpen your technique in five minutes by working on your running efficiency with hill reps, says pro-triathlete turned elite runner Nigel Leighton
Watch a triathlon or 10k road race and you’ll notice how smoothly the lead runners glide over the Tarmac, compared to the rest of the field. As we all strive for faster run splits we tend to push harder in training, upping the mileage or intensity in the blind faith it will bring rewards. Often overlooked is time spent improving our power and running efficiency. This great session will develop your technique and can be included as part of any easy run.
Find a short hill towards the end of any training run. You are looking for a hill long enough for a 10- to 15-second maximal effort on a gradient of anything up to 8%. Start with three to five hill repetitions and build it up to a maximum of 10. The emphasis is not on running to exhaustion, but on concentrating on your form and allowing the hill and gravity to force you into working hard for a short period, followed by a full recovery. This may mean you’ll need slightly longer than just the jog back down the hill, in which case find a short loop to jog.
Need to know
A word of warning – if you’ve not tackled maximal hill repetitions before, be careful on the first few sessions, you may experience a certain amount of muscle soreness as you are forcing focused muscle recruitment. These feelings will fade as your body gets used to the explosiveness of the efforts.
An added psychological benefit of this session is that it can stimulate the body into working at a higher level, especially after an easy or steady day where you may have felt sluggish or tired. I use the hill sprints as a guide to fatigue levels. If I feel explosive and responsive then I know I’m recovered enough to train hard tomorrow, whereas if I feel lacklustre on the hill I may need to adapt my training so I don’t get too fatigued later in the week.
The key mantra for the session is great running form. The muscle memory adapted from the session means you’ll gain leg strength, power and thus efficiency while at the same time not being overly taxed in terms of volume.
Time Five to 10 mins at the end of an easy training run
How often Weekly
During an easy 30 to 50 minute run 5 x (15-second hill sprints) with three-minute recoveries. Focus on technique and form, not just speed.
To get a gauge of hill gradients, step on to a treadmill at the gym and experiment with the elevation settings. Essential principles are the hill needs to be steep enough to force you to lean into it, but not too steep that you lose your form or need crampons to get to the top!
This article originally appeared in Triathlon Plus magazine