Runbayou: Hill Training

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Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan - Tom Landry

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General purpose of this phase

You can get  from point A to point B faster by increasing your turnover (i.e., increasing the number of steps per minute) and/or increasing your stride length (i.e., the distance from the toe of you foot when you push off to where the heal of your leading foot lands).

This phase is designed to help you get faster by increasing your stride length...but not exactly as you may think. First, think about the definition of stride length. It's the distance from your toe when you leave the ground to the heel of your foot when it hits the ground. In other words, stride length is determined not just by how long your legs are or how far out you can stretch them but also by how long you are in the air when you push off.

Think about it. Those fast East Africans are just not that tall. But, they have incredible stride lengths because they literally "leap" from leg to leg. They can do this because they exert tremendous force on the ground with their feet...they push off harder.

In fact, most of running speed comes from your ability to push off the ground with great force.
This phase will focus on improving the strength used to launch you into the air.

Bounding up hills will strengthen your quadriceps and ankles which will allow you to push off harder. This will increase your stride length...which will get you from A to B faster. But wait, there's more. By the time this phase is over, you'll be stronger and better equipped to handle the turnover speed work we do in Phase 3.
Remember: we're not going for turnover or speed in this phase (that will come later). We're working on strength and technique.

Here's a review of the objectives in the, "Lydiard Hills" workouts, in honor of the late Arthur Lydiard and his hill bounding workouts.

bulletUtilize hill bounding workouts to strengthen your ankles and quadriceps. Strong ankles and quadriceps will allow push off harder and further.
bulletImprove your running technique. Pushing off harder and further with each step will cause your stride to lengthen. In other words, your strides will increase because you are in the air longer, not because you are "over-striding."
bulletPlan to enter Phase 3 (speed training) stronger and ready to run fast.
bulletHave FUN


bulletYou'll typically drop your mileage in the first week of this phase.
bulletOf course you can run faster up the hills. Don't. Focus on easy bounding to improve strength and technique.
bulletKeep your eyes on the prize. The goal is the marathon; not to win a hill workout.


bulletTwo hill bounding sessions per week for 6 weeks (e.g., Tuesdays and Thursdays).
bulletEach session is three (3) sets of: 10 minutes of hill bounding; 3 minutes of easy jogging; and 3 minutes of wind sprints.
bulletThis is in addition to your easy runs and long slow distance run.

Workout tips

Click here for some more details of the hill bounding technique.

bulletBound up the hills slowly; aerobically, not anaerobically. This is a very methodical and technique oriented drill; think of it as weight training without the weights.
bulletAlthough you can get stronger jogging up and down hills, this is not that kind of hill training.
bulletLift quads parallel to ground.
bulletPush-off with your ankles; think of it as springing or bounding or prancing.
bulletFocus on keeping your pelvis forward during the workout.
bulletThe length of each forward "stride" is the distance from your hip to your knee; in other words, you're moving up the hill slowly, methodically, and with a focus on form!

Key books to review

bulletProgrammed to Run, Thomas S. Miller, Ph.D.
bulletRunning with Lydiard, Arthur Lydiard & Garth Gilmore
bulletThe Cutting Edge Runner, Matt Fitzgerald

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Last modified: 07/27/08