The title isn’t a reference to a late night out! When I came to UAB and started training, hill workouts were pretty much a weekly occurrence. They all had cute little names like, Highland Hill, Crest Hill, and High Knee Hills, but there was nothing cute about them! After my first year in college, I would tell all the Freshmen, on the way to their first hill workout, “If you don’t have a headache after, you ain’t doin’ it right!” My favorite of the bunch was the previously mentioned, Highland Hill. You’ve run the Vulcan 10K right? So, you know when you come up 32nd Street and cross over Clairmont/8th Avenue onto Highland Avenue? It’s pretty much a hill all the way to Botega. Yeah, that’s not the Highland Hill I’m talking about! There’s this “PEACH” of a street that parallels Highland Avenue called Highland Drive. It climbs 125 feet of elevation in only a quarter mile, with the steepest part being a 20% grade at the very top!! My coach at the time, Mr. Scott Strand, found it and thought it would be a great idea for us to go run as hard as we could up it 4 to 8 times! I think he has some issues! However horrible hills sound, I think they were some of the most beneficial workouts of my college career!
As part of my Mercedes Half Marathon training regimen, I’ve decided to add some workouts, one of which being a hill workout. The hill, Woodcrest Place in front of Iberia Bank and Embassy Suites in Homewood. It’s not quite as steep as Highland Hill, but a little longer. Today marked, not only my first workout for the 2011 Mercedes Half, but my first hill workout in 12 years!! Needless to say, I had a headache after! I ran a 10 minute warm up (I would recommend longer but was pressed for time), 4 hill repeats where I started up the hill at a comfortable pace and gradually increased the effort, and a 10 minute warm down. What is the point of such self inflicted pain you may ask? The number one thing I’ve lost over the past years of inconsistent training is STRENGTH, and there’s no way better of replacing it than a few good hill workouts!
How it works: First, make sure you’ve got a pretty good base of consistent mileage. In other words, if you just started running this week, don’t go out a do a hill workout tomorrow! Second, find you a good hill! It needs to me at least 200 yards long and not too steep. Third, always warm up! Unlike my short, time pressed 10 minute warm up this morning, you should jog for at LEAST 15 minutes before. Fourth, start up the hill at a comfortable pace focusing on your form. You want to make sure your knees are lifting well and your arms are working HARD! You should feel like your arms are “driving” not just simply swinging beside you. Fifth, do at least 3 reps up the hill and try to make your last one the fastest! Lastly, jog for at least 15 minutes to warm down afterwards.
Here are some things to think about. If you get excited and sprint up the hill on the first repeat, you’ll be sorry! It’s just like a race! If you go out too hard, you’ll finish terribly! Try to relax on the first part of the hill, really focusing on nothing but your form and gradually increase the intensity with each repeat. The good thing about hill workouts, you don’t need a track, a gym or a watch! It’s not about time or distance. It’s about the effort! If you feel bad and give up at the top of the hill, you’re not getting anything out of it! Try to push yourself when the going gets tough, and you’ll find yourself finishing strong at the finish of all your races!